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Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Kyle Drabek delivers a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in the third inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Baltimore, Maryland September 15, 2010. Drabek was making his major league debut. REUTERS/Joe Giza (JOE GIZA)
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Kyle Drabek delivers a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in the third inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Baltimore, Maryland September 15, 2010. Drabek was making his major league debut. REUTERS/Joe Giza (JOE GIZA)

Jeff Blair

Drabek shows sparkle despite loss Add to ...

Not a bad way to play out the string: a club-record-tying home run from Jose Bautista and the major-league debut of the centrepiece in the Roy Halladay trade - all on the day when the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays schedule was released.



It took two pitches from Baltimore Orioles starter Brad Bergesen for Bautista to crush his 47th home run and tie the Blue Jays single-season record set by George Bell in 1987 and it took three batters for the Blue Jays to get a first-hand look at some of the reasons behind the hype that preceded 22-year-old right-hander Kyle Drabek.



"If I was giving him a grade for that inning, I'd probably write that he did a good job of damage control," former major-leaguer Doug Drabek said with a chuckle, on a night when his son struck out five Orioles in six innings and gave up nine hits and two walks in what would turn out to be a 3-1 Orioles win.



The rejuvenated Orioles swept the three-game series from the Blue Jays, who'd won all 12 of the previous games between the teams. But the night was still memorable for the Blue Jays - first because of Bautista's record-tying homer but also because Drabek has emerged as the crown jewel of the organization. Drabek gave up back-to-back singles to Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis - who pulled off a double steal against the suddenly deliberate rookie - before striking out Ty Wigginton and ending the inning getting Felix Pie to miss at a 1-2 cutter.



A run came in on Luke Scott's ground out, one of three earned runs allowed by Drabek, who threw 88 pitches, 53 strikes. The Orioles helped out by running into two outs on the bases, but Drabek showed a knack of inducing a ground ball when he needed it. Two fourth-inning runs were helped along by a passed ball charged to catcher John Buck, with one of the runs scored on a double-play grounder in which Matt Wieters was able to cross the plate before the play was completed. Centre-fielder Vernon Wells helped out by pulling back an Adam Jones home run to lead off the sixth.



The elder Drabek, who is now a coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, was in attendance along with Drabek's mother and siblings to see his son and he said his last words of advice to his son were: "Don't change anything, it's the same game."



Doug Drabek remembered his debut on May 30, 1986, when as a member of the New York Yankees he faced the Oakland Athletics' Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman and Dwayne Murphy. Murphy is now the Blue Jays hitting coach and Bautista is his prized pupil - to the point where before the game Bautista expressed his desire to see Murphy return as hitting coach, no definite possibility given the fact manager Cito Gaston is done after the season.



Bautista hit his 45th and 46th homers on Saturday and had gone 1-for-14 with three walks until he pounded a 0-1 pitch off Bergesen into the Orioles bullpen. Bautista, who has averaged a homer every 10.8 at-bats this season, has 16 games left to set the club record and continue his run at 50 homers.



Murphy's future is a topic for another day.



Halladay - who unless some dolt schedules another G20 summit in Toronto will finally get a chance to be feted at the Rogers Centre in a three-game interleague series against the Philadelphia Phillies starting on Canada Day - has his eyes set on the playoffs right now. Nothing you can do about that, Toronto. But Kyle Drabek has two more scheduled starts at home and Bautista? He'll keep hacking to the bitter end. Could be some fun down the stretch, no?





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