Mariners-Blue Jays Preview

Jose Bautista matched the Toronto Blue Jays’ single-season home

run record during Kyle Drabek’s major league debut.

Bautista will join an even more exclusive club if he goes deep

in the young right-hander’s first home start.

Drabek takes the mound Wednesday night against the Seattle

Mariners as Bautista takes another shot at his 50th homer this

season.

Acquired last offseason in the deal that sent Roy Halladay to

Philadelphia, Drabek (0-1, 4.50 ERA) struck out five and yielded

three runs and nine hits in his first big league start, a 3-1 loss

at Baltimore on Sept. 15. The son of former NL Cy Young winner Doug

Drabek went six strong innings, but the Blue Jays only backed him

with Bautista’s first-inning home run, which tied the franchise

record of 47 set by George Bell in 1987.

“He did a good job. He kept us in the ball game,” manager Cito

Gaston said of Drabek, the Eastern League pitcher of the year. “We

just didn’t score runs for him.”

The Blue Jays (76-74) didn’t have that problem in Tuesday’s 5-2

victory over Seattle, as Vernon Wells, Edwin Encarnacion and Travis

Snider all homered. Toronto leads the majors with 232 home

runs.

Bautista, whose previous career high was 16 homers in 2006 with

Pittsburgh, will try to become the 26th player to hit 50 in one

season. The last ones to reach that plateau were the Yankees’ Alex

Rodriguez (54) and Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder (50) in 2007.

Bautista is 4 for 9 with a homer and two RBIs versus Seattle

(57-93) this season. He has yet to face David Pauley (2-8, 4.14),

who makes his first start against Toronto since May 31, 2006, while

with Boston.

The right-hander has lost his last four decisions, but Seattle

has scored just 12 total runs in his last five outings.

“(The lack of run support is) one of those things,” Pauley said

after allowing two runs – one earned – in six innings of a 5-1 loss

to the Red Sox on Sept. 15.

While Seattle is the majors’ worst hitting team at .234, Ichiro

Suzuki leads all players in hits and needs just three to become the

first in major league history with 10 straight 200-hit seasons.

“I really believe he hits the ball where he wants to,” Gaston

said. “He just picks a spot and if there’s nobody there, he’ll hit

it there.”

Suzuki is batting .352 in 81 career games versus Toronto.

Mariners third baseman Jose Lopez is batting .394 with a homer

and seven RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak at Rogers

Centre.

Toronto has won four straight at home against Seattle, which has

dropped 10 of 12 on the road.