Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays

The Jose Bautista smear campaign continues

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Jose Bautista hit his 19th home run last night, helping power the Blue Jays past the Yankees. The game and its aftermath is making me want to take a walk down memory lane.

For instance, remember back in 2009 when speculating that an unusual spike in a player’s performance could be steroids-related would get you torn a new one by virtually every credentialed writer in baseball and featured in a public pillorying on ESPN for your lack of journalistic ethics?

Wait, maybe I dreamed that, because there is no way that could have happened and this article in the Daily News could still appear without a similar outrage. That would be crazy!

Bautista is the power-hitting sensation the sport desperately needs these days.

Let’s hope he’s clean.

Sorry, but even in this drug-testing era, it’s impossible not to be suspicious when someone suddenly starts hitting the ball to the moon in his late 20s. Unfortunately, steroids forever hardened us to the romance of a late-bloomer like Bautista, especially when baseball still has no test for human growth hormone … Bautista is a great story. Let’s just hope he’s legit.

One more walk down memory lane: remember when, back in 2003 or so, baseball writers used to say that unless and until there is steroid testing in baseball, everyone will be under suspicion?  How then, is it possible, seven years after the imposition of steroid testing, for them to still be under the same suspicion?  Is there absolutely no basic, prima facie presumption of innocence? Is there not anything apart from the mere hitting of some home runs, that is required before this kind of skepticism and innuendo is warranted?

Albert Pujols passes Mark McGwire with 584th career home run

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs out a double during the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Angels 14-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.

Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.

Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.

Zach Britton allowed an earned run for the first time since April 30

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 22:  Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches for his 38th save in the ninth inning during a baseball game against the the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 22, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Oriole won 4-3.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.

The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.

Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.