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Cito Gaston has day to remember

Jose Bautista (index)

Cito Gaston called Thursday’s 1-0 Blue Jays win over the Seattle Mariners one that he will not forget.

For a manager who has been a part of countless games and who has more than 900 victories, that’s really saying something.

Jose Bautista hit his 50th home run of the season, making him only the 26th player in major league history to do so.

Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki had two hits in the game, the second being his 200th hit of the year. It marks Ichiro’s 10th consecutive season with 200 or more hits, breaking the  American League record previously held by Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.

“We got to see some things happen today that I’ve never seen before,” Gaston said at the post-game press conference. “10 years for [Ichiro], he has 200 hits.

“And of course, Bautista hitting the home run. He ended up getting the winning run, too, so that’s big also. Quite a day today. It’s a day that I will always remember, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people will.”

Bautista becomes the 19th player in the AL to have a 50-home run season.

The right-fielder had some trouble putting into words what it felt like to be a part of the group of selected few that he joined Thursday.

“It’s just a really big honour to be put in that elite group of hitters,” Bautista said. “And to tell you the truth, I really haven’t let it sink in yet. I haven’t thought about it too much. So, once I do that, I will probably have more feelings to describe. But right now, I’m just really honoured, and happy.”

Though the offensive highlights became the talk of the game, Thursday’s contest was also one of great pitching.

Shawn Hill (1-2) cruised through all five of the innings he pitched for the Jays (77-75), matching a career-high in strikeouts with seven. The 29-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native didn’t allow a run, giving up four hits and walking one.

Felix Hernandez (12-12) took the loss after pitching a complete game two-hitter. The 24-year-old right-hander made his only mistake in the bottom of the first, to Bautista. He walked four and struck out five.

Jose Lopez made the play of the game for the Mariners after Travis Snider started the game with a fly ball into the first row of seats on the third base side. Lopez grabbed the ball, and held it, falling into the laps of two spectators.

Seattle’s first hit of the game came in the top of the second, when Adam Moore grabbed a broken-bat single to left field. The play would have been an easy out for shortstop Yunel Escobar, but the bat sailed right at him and into the outfield, distracting him from the ball.

Toronto’s relief corps had a strong showing, using a combination of Brad Mills, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg.

Gregg came on in the ninth to close out the game for the Blue Birds. Matt Mangini recorded his first major league hit with a single to start the inning.

Gregg recorded his career-high 35th save of the season after striking out the next two batters and inducing a fly ball to Ichiro to record the third out.

Gaston was proud of not only what Bautista accomplished on this historic Thursday, but also of what the rest of his team did.

“This is the first time I’ve been on a team that ever had a guy that hit 50 home runs, so it was a first for me, too,” Toronto’s manager said. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy than Bautista.

“And our bullpen did a good job today, coming in and picking it up from the sixth inning on, and we beat a tough pitcher across the way over there…I don’t think we’ve won a game like that in a long time.”