Encarnacion heating up with two-HR game
Gibbons confident slugger will 'catch fire,' hit hot streak
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have the best offense in the Major Leagues this year, and the scary part about it is a lot of the results have come without consistent production from Edwin Encarnacion.
Toronto's veteran first baseman has struggled at times this season -- at least by his standards -- but a pair of swings was all it took to lead the Blue Jays to a 12-2 victory over the Rangers on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
Encarnacion hit a grand slam in the first inning and later added a solo shot for the 20th multi-homer game of his career. The Blue Jays can only hope it's the start of something big because Encarnacion's as good as anyone in the game when he gets hot, but that has yet to happen for an extended stretch.
"He's having a good solid season, but he hasn't really caught fire like we've seen him in the past, and I think he will," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He had that incredible roll last year, and then of course he hurt his leg and things like that. I think once he does, because in my heart I believe it's going to happen, that just makes it that much stronger.
"He keeps battling, he's been a little banged up himself, which never helps, but every time he steps into the box, he has a chance to burn you deep, and that's not a good feeling on the other side."
Encarnacion is hitting .245 in 69 games this season, and while he does have 16 home runs, the overall stats haven't quite been there. He entered play on Friday with a .780 OPS, which is rather telling, because he hasn't posted an OPS below .900 since 2011.
The expectation all along is that it's when -- not if -- Encarnacion gets hot. When that happens, he has the ability to carry a team through long stretches, and that's a scary proposition for opposing teams that already have to deal with Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and many more in a powerful lineup.
One of the holdups this year has been a lingering left shoulder issue that has been bothering Encarnacion for quite some time. He can't pinpoint the exact date it happened, but the shoulder requires daily maintenance, and it's heavily wrapped with ice after each game. Encarnacion was seen grabbing at that shoulder during a recent series in Tampa Bay, but he said on Friday that it has been slowly getting better.
"It's feeling a lot better the last two weeks," Encarnacion said. "Some swings, when I swing and miss, that's when I feel it more. We keep treating it, we keep trying to do the best we can to get it stronger and stronger. Try to be healthy."
Toronto reached double-digits in runs for the 13th time this season on Friday night. That's the most the Blue Jays have had since 2009, when they scored 10 or more runs a total of 14 times during the season.
The Blue Jays also entered play on Friday averaging 5.47 runs per game, with the Yankees a distant second at 4.79. It has long been assumed that this type of production can't be maintained all year, but even if some players see their numbers dip, it's someone like Encarnacion who can make sure scoring runs never becomes an issue.
"The thing I like the most is that we're playing like a team," Encarnacion said. "Everybody is playing together, we're playing like we used to play, like we're supposed to play right now. Everybody is doing their part. We're hitting, we're pitching, defense, everything together, and that's why we're winning games like this."