Win would be icing on cake for b-day boy Bautista
Right fielder looking to join exclusive company with big postseason game on birthday
Jose Bautista turned 35 years old on Monday, and for the first time in his professional career, he's been given the gift of postseason baseball. So, how will the Blue Jays' right fielder celebrate the occasion?
Bautista and the Blue Jays will host the Royals at Rogers Centre (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1/Sportsnet, 8 p.m. ET game time) on Monday in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Perhaps the best birthday present Bautista could receive is a win, as Toronto is trying to overcome an 0-2 deficit against Kansas City.
Willie Aikens set the standard for such performances, going 2-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs for the Royals -- but his effort came in a 7-6 loss to the Phillies and, ultimately, a World Series defeat.
Bautista could join an exclusive group of players who have hit a postseason homer on their birthday. As of now, that list includes Aikens, who went deep twice in Game 1 of the 1980 World Series, along with Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (Oct. 10, 2015) and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (Oct. 7, 2013), the only other player to drive in at least three runs to mark a postseason birthday.
A two-hit game would also put Bautista in rare company. Only nine players have recorded two hits in a postseason game taking place on their birthday, the most recent being Placido Polanco in the 2001 National League Division Series. Nobody has ever put together a three-hit postseason game on his birthday.
But what if Johnny Cueto and the Royals' pitching staff blow out Bautista's candles with strikeouts? That, too, would put Bautista on a short list. Pat Burrell (2008 NLCS) and Jerry Grote (1969 NLCS) are the only hitters to strike out three times while celebrating a postseason birthday.
There's not a particularly storied history of birthday boys pitching well in the postseason, either. Five pitchers have recorded a quality start in the playoffs on their birthday, and only one of those posted a game score of at least 70.
That performance was by "El Duque," Orlando Hernandez, for the Yankees in Game 2 of the 2000 ALCS. Hernandez limited the Mariners to one run on six hits while striking out seven over eight innings.