Simon nicks Encarnacion with eephus pitch
TORONTO -- After three games, four home runs and 11 RBIs, the Tigers finally found a pitch that Edwin Encarnacion couldn't hit. The problem was, the pitch hit him.
Or to be more accurate, it tapped him. Getting struck by a 47-mph pitch would seem to test the definition of hit-by-pitch. Whether or not the "hit" part was accidental, the pitch was something Detroit starter Alfredo Simon meant to throw in the Tigers' 9-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday at Rogers Centre.
"I think it was the eephus," catcher James McCann said.
It's a pitch he usually throws once a game, almost always for a ball without any result. It usually sails off the plate, though Twins outfielder Torii Hunter swung at one early in the year. It's not so much a game strategy as it is a timing mechanism for Simon to slow down his delivery when he feels himself hurrying. On Sunday, it resulted in one of the oddest hit-by-pitches in some time.
Encarnacion homered off a Simon splitter in the strike zone in the opening inning, shrugging off two pitches off the plate to get out of an 0-2 count. It was the second of four homers Simon allowed in the game, including two others on 0-2 counts. It also preceded an 0-2 fastball up and in to Troy Tulowitzki that drew warnings from home plate umpire Bob Davidson for both dugouts and Simon.
"Certainly, Simon didn't work to an 0-2 count and then throw at a guy," Ausmus said. "That doesn't happen, so there has to be more common sense involved. I didn't see any reason for it. I don't think either side thought we were attempting to throw at Tulowitzki."
Normally, any pitch up and in from then on is going to draw scrutiny, let alone a hit-by-pitch. But the sight of Simon floating a pitch in so slowly and hitting Encarnacion was so odd that not even the Blue Jays knew what to make of it.
The 2-1 pitch in the fifth was one of Simon's slowest eephus pitches yet. The pitch floated above Encarnacion's eye level as he watched it, almost like watching a bee. He didn't know what to make of it until the last split-second, turning just in time that the ball caught him on his left elbow pad.
The Blue Jays telecast showed players and coaches looking bewildered. Encarnacion took first base and shared a laugh with Miguel Cabrera. It was the last baserunner Simon allowed; he struck out Tulowitzki on a 94-mph fastball, then recovered from a three-ball count to get Justin Smoak to fly out to center.
Simon has hit three batters this season -- two in his last two starts -- compared to 12 in 2014.