Bat trick: Jays' EE records 3 HRs, 9 RBIs
TORONTO -- If the the dome wasn't already open at Rogers Centre on Saturday, the applause for Edwin Encarnacion would've blown the roof clean off. Toronto's cleanup man had a momentous afternoon, belting three home runs while tying Roy Howell for the single-game club record for RBIs with nine in the Blue Jays' 15-1 victory over the Tigers.
In hitting his third homer of the game in the seventh inning, Encarnacion matched another club mark: He tied Carlos Delgado (1997) and Darrin Fletcher (2000) as the only players to have hit three grand slams in a season.
"It's a bigger game than I've ever been [in]," said Encarnacion, who extended his Major League-best hit streak to 24 games with his 3-for-5 performance. "I'm happy and I thank God for giving me a game like this."
Encarnacion put the Blue Jays on the board in the first with a three-run shot before he laced a frozen rope over the wall in left in the sixth to give the home team a 9-1 lead.
The best was yet to come, however, as the designated hitter brought a sellout crowd of 46,444 to its feet with his third long ball of the day -- a grand slam that induced a downpour of ball caps from fans who celebrated the home run hat trick, causing a brief delay in the game.
"The fans throwing hats on the field, that's probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen," said starter Drew Hutchison, who benefited from the offensive outburst en route to recording his 13th win of the season.
"Incredible," reliever LaTroy Hawkins said. "Not every day you see a guy hit three home runs."
Encarnacion has been red-hot since his hitting streak began on July 26. He's gone 36-for-90 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs over that span, and in the last seven games alone, the slugger has six homers and 23 RBIs.
Though he's on an incredible run, a streak like this isn't entirely unprecedented.
Recall early last season when the Dominican Republic native matched an American League record for most home runs in the month of May with 16, which tied him with the great Mickey Mantle. That also gave him a franchise record for most homers in any month, and earned him AL Player of the Month honors.
"He's some kinda locked in," manager John Gibbons said. "You go back to that record-setting month he had last May. When he gets, it's going -- there's nobody better, nobody more dangerous."
For all the noise he can make with his bat, Encarnacion is generally known as a reserved player who would rather shy away from the cameras than stand in the spotlight. He's sometimes reluctant to give on-camera interviews, and he generally goes about his business with little fanfare. But teammates say that because of his soft-spoken nature, whenever he chooses to speak up, he can command the attention of a room.
"He's a laid-back guy, doesn't say much. But when he does, you listen," first baseman Justin Smoak said. "He's a team guy, a great guy. Great playing with him."
Now in his seventh season with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion has become synonymous with Toronto's potent offense. He's been so good over the last four seasons that it can be easy to forget that the Blue Jays designated him for assignment back in 2010, and that he cleared waivers.
Encarnacion would work his way back to the big leagues, and he had a major breakthrough in 2012 when he moved from third base to first base and designated hitter, hitting 42 homers with 110 RBIs that season. Since then, he's been a fixture in the heart of the Blue Jays batting order.
"I think what's important for any player is that they identify the player they're gonna be and that they can do that on a daily basis," said third baseman Josh Donaldson, who knows a thing or two about finding one's place.
Donaldson began his career as a catcher, but only began to find success when he moved to the hot corner in Oakland.
"He's getting hot at the right times," Donaldson said. "It's nice to see."