Jose Bautista’s talent can sometimes be taken for granted.
It’s not that he’s underrated. He’s been an all-star the last four seasons and he’s still the team’s most popular player. But since his 54-homer breakout in 2010, it has become easier and easier to forget just how good he is. You get used to it.

So you could be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed the kind of season the Blue Jays’ slugging right fielder is having thus far. While most other hitters in the Jays’ lineup — save for Melky Cabrera — have gone hot and cold through the season’s first six weeks, Bautista has been steadily productive.

As the schedule nears the quarter-mark, he leads the majors in walks, owns the second-highest on-base percentage in the American League, sits tied for second in the AL in home runs and has been judged to be the third-most valuable player in the league, according to Wins Above Replacement.

After failing to reach base on Sunday for the first time this season, Bautista responded Monday by going 3-for-4 and hitting his 10th homer of the year — a three-run bomb launched into the second deck in the first inning — to lead the Jays to a 7-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, halting the club’s three-game losing skid.
Known for his vicious home-run swing and tendency to pull the ball sharply to left field, Bautista has seemed more willing this year to hit through the middle and to the opposite field — either as an adapted two-strike approach or as a means of combating infield shifts. Among the top 20 home-run hitters in the majors, Bautista is one of just six hitting .300 or better this season.

“He and (hitting coach) Kevin Seitzer talked about that early in spring training, about being a tougher out and taking what the pitcher gives to you and whatever the situation calls for,” manager John Gibbons said over the weekend.

Mark Buehrle, meanwhile, continued his remarkable start to the season, earning his league-leading seventh win and exiting with his ERA a minuscule 2.04, tied for the best in the AL.

Buehrle walked a season-high five but kept the ball in the park and limited the damage, allowing just two runs in his six-plus innings. After eight starts, Buehrle has allowed just one home run this year. By this time last year he had given up 11.

The 15-year veteran said he had no explanation for the dramatic decline.

“I don’t feel like I’m pitching different,” he said. “I haven’t changed anything.”

Buehrle suggested Dioner Navarro, his catcher, might have some ideas.

“Ask Navi, he’s puttin’ the right finger down.”
Buehrle, a famously quick worker who almost never shakes off his catcher’s signs, continued to heap praise on Navarro for his hot start.

“I don’t look at scouting reports before the game. He and (pitching coach) Pete (Walker) go over that. He’s got a game plan and he puts the fingers down. I throw and try to make the best pitch at the best time. Obviously I’ve got to make the pitch, but as far as calling it in certain situations you’ve got to give him a ton of credit.”
On the flip side, Brett Lawrie has shown a dramatic boost in his penchant for the long ball this year.