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TOR@STL: Bautista crushes a go-ahead solo shot

ST. LOUIS -- Jose Bautista did his homework.

The Toronto slugger, unfamiliar with the St. Louis pitching staff, studied plenty of tape during the days leading up to Friday's opener of a three-game Interleague series with the Cardinals.

During his study periods, Bautista noticed a few tendencies in closer Fernando Salas.

"Watching video on him, I saw that he likes his fastball and he throws it away most of the time," Bautista said.

So when Bautista stepped to the plate against Salas with the game tied at 4 in the ninth, he knew what to expect.

"It was a ball," Bautista said. "And I ended up hitting it good."

Bautista picked on a Salas fastball and drove it over the right-field wall for his Major League-leading 23rd homer to lift Toronto to 5-4 win before 37,724 at Busch Stadium.

The victory helped snap a four-game Toronto losing streak. Bautista's homer, along with several other timely hits, allowed the Blue Jays to break out of a horrendous offensive funk. Toronto had managed just three runs and 18 hits over the previous 36 innings before breaking loose with a 12-hit attack on Friday.

"We took a lot of good swings tonight," manager John Farrell said. "We created a number of opportunities -- unlike the last four ballgames."

Adam Lind and Aaron Hill broke out of mini-skids by driving in two runs apiece. Newcomer Eric Thames, recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday, injected some life into the offense with two doubles and a pair of runs scored. Jose Molina and Yunel Escobar also came through with clutch singles.

But it was Bautista who capped off the night with his fifth game-winning RBI of the season.

Thames, who is relatively new to Bautista's heroics, enjoyed watching the home run as much as the Big Man enjoyed hitting it.

"It's like being a kid in Disneyland," Thames said.

Reliever Jason Frasor (2-1) picked up the win after firing a perfect eighth inning. Closer Frank Francisco grabbed his eighth save with a 1-2-3 ninth. Starter Brandon Morrow allowed just four runs (three earned) over seven innings. He struck out nine, one short of his season high. The trio combined to set down the final 12 batters in order.

"I thought I threw the ball real well," said Morrow.

But the night belonged to the rejuvenated offense, which snapped to life after scoring just 10 runs over the previous six games.

The key to the breakout came in the first inning, when the Blue Jays plated two early runs. Escobar singled, Bautista doubled, and Lind brought in the first run with a grounder to second. Hill followed with a single up the middle to push the lead to 2-0.

"It kind of allowed us to take a collective sigh [of relief]," said Farrell. "We've been pressing to get some offense going."

St. Louis rallied to tie the game before the Toronto offense kicked into gear once again. Thames started a fifth-inning rally with a double into the gap. Bautista was walked intentionally. Lind and Hill followed with run-scoring singles to make it 4-2.

Again, the Cardinals rallied. Matt Holliday drilled a two-run shot off Morrow in the sixth to knot the score at 4. It was the Cardinals' last hit the of the night.

That set stage for Bautista' s heroics.

"He missed with the pitch and the guy hit it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. The victory was truly a team effort. Farrell used all of his position players and said he was set to call pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes into pinch-hitting duty if necessary.

"A much-needed win, a good night," Farrell said.

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