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Jays' Bautista rediscovering his form; Slugger's numbers up; Yankees cold at plate

It's the year of struggling hitters. Albert Pujols seemingly just woke up Wednesday and has homered in back-to-back days. The Yankees can't drive in anyone, with Mark Teixeira batting .228 and Alex Rodriguez owning just five home runs.

The Blue Jays took the drastic step Thursday of sending Opening Day cleanup hitter and former 35-homer man Adam Lind, he of the .186 batting average and 6-for-50 slump, to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Then there's the curious case of Jays slugger Jose Bautista.

He was another Mendoza Line celebrity with suffering power numbers, a stunner in these parts given his big-league best of 97 homers the last two seasons. The numbers for 2012 are finally getting better.

Bautista's two-run homer in the third inning gave Toronto the lead and the Blue Jays went on to a 4-1 win over the Yankees on Thursday night to complete a sweep of a two-game series in Rogers Centre.

Bautista woke up on May 11 batting .177 with five homers and 15 RBIs in his first 32 games. Since then he's gone 9 for 28 with five homers and seven RBIs in seven games to push his average to .207.

"Frustration can set in after two at-bats so it definitely was there after a bad month and a half," Bautista said. "But I'm not too caught up in the batting average or home runs. If I had 30 RBIs but was batting .150, I wouldn't really be complaining too much. There were a couple weeks I wasn't really contributing and that's why I was frustrated."

So are the Blue Jays ready to say Bautista is back? Sure seems that way. He was missing on some pitches that he was hammering the last two years and chasing others. Not now.

"If going deep five times in seven games isn't locked in, then we're in for a real treat if he's yet to click in," said manager John Farrell. "The one thing he continues to do despite a slow start for him is he didn't waver from his routine. When he hit a couple balls out of the ballpark, there was an ability for him to just take a deep breath and relax."

A numbers sign Bautista is heating up: His laser Wednesday off Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda exited the playing surface at a speed of 117.5 mph, with ESPN's Home Run Tracker pegging it as the fastest traveling longball in the big leagues this season.

A live example: In his third-inning at-bat against Phil Hughes (3-5), Bautista clubbed back-to-back pitches foul high into the fifth level of the ballpark. On the next delivery with the count full, he didn't miss on an 86-mph cut fastball from Hughes, putting it high over the fence in left.

"I felt like I had good at-bats today, was laying off pitches on the zone," Bautista said. "I was just ready for that one. The key is picking up the ball early, getting ready to hit on time. That way I allow myself to differentiate balls and strikes. Swing at strikes, take balls."

The Blue Jays got a two-run homer in the seventh from catcher J.P. Arencibia, his second in two days, and the first two major-league hits by Yan Gomes, who was called up to play third base and became the first Brazilian in major league history. Rookie Drew Hutchison (3-1) went six strong innings to drop the Yanks to 0-4 this year against first-year starters.

The Jays hit six home runs in the two games to move ahead of the Yankees into third place in the American League East at 21-18. The Yankees fell to 20-18.

"I don't see anybody popping champagne in the middle of May," said Yanks shortstop Derek Jeter. "Sometimes success is contagious. Sometimes failure is contagious."

The Yankees were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, with Teixeira leaving on five himself in an 0-for-4 night. They're 2 for 25 in RISP at-bats the last three days.

"I don't think we're the only offensive team going through this," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "There are good teams that are scuffling, good players that are scuffling. Look at the guy on the other side. If someone would have told me he was hitting .200 on May 15, I would say, 'no chance.' Jose Bautista is a great hitter."

email: mharrington@buffnews.com