The awe-inspiring numbers posted by Jose Bautista so far this season become even more staggering when put into historical context.
Through the first 40 Toronto Blue Jays games of 2011, the reigning home run champion has gone deep 16 times, exactly where Barry Bonds was in 2001 when he established the single-season record of 73, and where Mark McGwire was in 1998 when set the previous mark of 70.
No. 16 for Bonds came in an 8-3 loss to the Florida Marlins on May 17, and began a stretch of six games in which the now-tainted slugger hit at least one home run, collecting nine in all over the stretch.
McGwire’s 16th also came against the Marlins, during a 5-4 victory at home.
While it’s far too early to begin talk of a chase for the record, Bautista is certainly positioning himself to at least improve on last year’s career-high of 54, if not make run at an even more eye-popping number.
May was actually Bonds’ most prolific month of 2001 with 17 homers, and helped cushion him for a July dip, when he hit just six. His other monthly totals were: 11 in April; 11 in June; 12 in August; 12 in September; and four in October.
McGwire was also busiest in May with 16 bombs that month in the since tarnished Summer of Love. He opened with 11 in March/April, and added 10 in June, eight in July, 10 in August and 15 in September.
Bautista, meanwhile, hit nine April homers and has tacked on seven more in May before Monday night’s series opener at Detroit. He would likely be even further along had he not missed three games to attend the birth of his daughter, and five more due to a minor neck injury.
His 16 have come in 32 games, while Bonds needed 37 outings, and McGwire 38.
Still, Bonds’ pace in 2001 was a home run every 6.52 at-bats, while Bautista is at one per every 7.13 at-bats so far. McGwire went deep once every 7.27 at-bats when he crushed Roger Maris’s old record of 61 in 1961.
The only other players to break the 60-homer plateau? Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001) and Babe Ruth (60 in 1927).
BUNCHED UP EAST: The Boston Red Sox reached .500 for the first time this season over the weekend by becoming the first visiting team to sweep a series of at least three games at the new Yankee Stadium.
Sunday’s 7-5 victory over the New York lifted the Red Sox to 20-20, making them a strong 18-10 since their dismal and stunning 2-10 start. It also left all five teams in the AL East separated by a mere 3½ games at the season’s quarter pole, the tightest race in the majors.
Before Monday’s action, Tampa Bay led the way at 23-17 and the potential is there for things to get tighter as the Rays were set to host the Yankees for a two-game series.
New York, at 20-18, heads into the matchup on a season-high five-game losing streak, but could pull the Rays even closer to the pack with a pair of wins.
The Red Sox – tied with the Blue Jays at 20-20, a half-game up on 19-20 Baltimore – continue to own the hated Yankees. They’re 5-1 against their arch-rivals this season and have won seven of the last eight, 10 of the last 13, and 12 of the last 17 matchups between them.
GOT THEIR NUMBER: The Minnesota Twins are certainly happy to see the last of the Toronto Blue Jays this season.
After suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of their AL East nemesis over the weekend, the struggling AL Central champions are just 13-33 against Toronto since the start of the 2006 season.
The Twins have dropped 10 of their last 12 meetings with the Blue Jays and in going 1-5 this season, were outscored 44-14.
Minnesota headed into its contest Monday in Seattle on its first eight-game losing streak since July 5-13, 2003.
DOMINICAN BOUND: Right-handers Tom Robson of Ladner, B.C., and Jesen Dygestile-Therrien of Montreal, along with infielder Justin Atkinson of Surrey, B.C., headline the junior national team roster named by Baseball Canada for its annual Dominican Summer League camp.
Starting Wednesday, the 30-man squad will play a 13-game schedule against several different MLB-affiliated Summer League teams.
The camp is the program’s latest step in evaluating potential players for the Americas World Junior Qualification Tournament in Cartagena, Colombia from Sept. 23-Oct. 2. The top four teams there qualify for the 2012 World Junior Baseball Championship in Seoul, South Korea.
Robson, Dygestile-Therrien and Atkinson helped Canada to a fourth-place finish at the 2010 world junior championship, and are all eligible for next month’s draft.
RAYS ADD AVRIL: The Rays Summer Concert Series will feature some Canadian content when pop star Avril Lavigne takes the stage after Tampa Bay’s game against Cleveland on May 28.
The native of Napanee, Ont., is part of wide-ranging lineup of acts that are free for that day’s ticket-holders.
Darius Rucker performed after Saturday’s 6-0 loss to Baltimore, with The Wiggles (following a July 3 game St. Louis), Goo Goo Dolls (Aug. 6 against Oakland), Miranda Cosgrove (Sept. 3 versus Baltimore) and Miranda Lambert (Sept. 24 against Toronto) set to follow Lavigne.
Since starting the concert series in 2008, the Rays have averaged more than 30,000 fans for games on show dates.