SEATTLE – The two previous times Jose Bautista came up with runners in scoring position — and failed to come through — were still in the back of his mind when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with two more runners on base.
Unlike those previous two at-bats, both times Bautista fouling out, the Blue Jays slugger didn't miss.
Down by a run and facing a fifth straight loss, Bautista came through with a three-run homer off Seattle reliever Chris Ray in the eighth. It was the start of a six-run inning by the Blue Jays, who avoided a three-game sweep by the Mariners with an 8-3 win on Wednesday.
It was Bautista's third homer of the season, and with the way Toronto had dropped its previous four games, it was a much-needed hit.
"I look at the same situations and I want to come through as well. I know I'm in the middle of the lineup and late in the game when the game is close the team is relying on me," Bautista said. "It happened twice, once last night and one earlier today where I couldn't get it done. It's a little bit frustrating, but you're going to get more situations like that and luckily I had another one and I was able to come through."
Much to the delight of the many Blue Jays fans that made the drive down from British Columbia, Bautista unloaded on a 2-1 breaking ball that Ray (1-1) left in the middle of the plate, hitting it into the Toronto bullpen in left field — where reliever Jon Rauch caught the homer as he was warming up.
It snapped an 17-inning scoreless streak by the Mariners' bullpen, ruining a strong start by Seattle lefty Jason Vargas.
Bautista's homer was just the start. Toronto sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning, unleashing a few days of frustration after the Jays wasted a seven-run lead on Monday night, then losing a one-run game on Tuesday.
"We've talked about resiliency a number of times and this might be another case of it," Toronto manager John Farrell said.
The eighth started innocently enough with a broken-bat single up the middle by Yunel Escobar, but Corey Patterson followed with a bunt single. Bautista, who struck out twice earlier and fouled out down the left-field line in a key spot in the fifth, then deposited Ray's pitch.
The Jays weren't done as Jayson Nix doubled and later scored on Edwin Encarnacion's two-out double. Ray was finally pulled, leaving to a smattering of boos from the tiny afternoon crowd on a chilly and damp day.
Ray, who made the club out of spring training after going to camp on a minor-league deal, has allowed 11 hits, eight earned runs and two homers in 4 2-3 innings so far this season.
"I ended up hanging a 2-1 slider. It was a bad pitch," Ray said. "I threw a good one to him 1-1 and just missed. I came back and it just hung. He's known for his power and he got it."
Josh Lueke took over and didn't fare much better. He walked John McDonald, then gave up a two-run double to Molina, his third hit and second double of the afternoon, and a single to Escobar before finally getting a strikeout of Patterson to end the inning.
The six-run inning was Toronto's biggest outburst of the young season.
Reliever Mark Rzepczynski (1-0) got the win in relief of rookie Kyle Drabek. Rzepczynski threw two innings of hitless relief, striking out a pair. His biggest out was his first, when he got Ichiro Suzuki on strikes to end the sixth inning with runners on first and third.
"Looking at it, it felt like that (at-bat) was the game, either keeping it in control or (them) putting a crooked number on the board," Farrell said.
Seattle had taken a 2-1 lead earlier in the inning when Justin Smoak hit an opposite-field solo homer on a 3-2 pitch from Drabek. The rookie left later in the sixth after allowing walks to Ryan Langerhans and Chris Gimenez. Drabek gave up six hits, struck out five and walked four. He threw 114 pitches, but his strikes-to-balls ratio was almost even: 59 strikes, 55 balls.
It was the most pitches Drabek has thrown in his six major league starts.
"I started to get behind early and I had to battle my way back," Drabek said. "I would like to get ahead in the count so (I'm) going to have to work on that."
NOTES: For the second time in three games, the Mariners set a new record low for attendance at Safeco Field on Wednesday: 12,407. The previous low was set on Monday night at 13,056. ... Toronto optioned reliever Brad Mills back to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game. A corresponding roster move is expected before Friday's game in Boston. ... Seattle CF Franklin Gutierrez is expected to go on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma this weekend. Manager Eric Wedge says after three games at Tacoma, Gutierrez will be re-evaluated. Seattle opens a seven-game homestand next Monday.