Edwin Encarnacion was acquired by Toronto on July 31, 2009, in a deadline trade that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to Cincinnati. Encarnacion had once been advertised as a future star with the Reds, but they were disillusioned by that summer and the rumors at the time had them insisting the Blue Jays take the 26-year-old along with two pitchers in exchange for Rolen.
Encarnacion’s reputation that offseason took another hit: He was back home in the Dominican Republic and was hit in the face with a rocket firecracker. He survived that and then missed 30 games early in 2010 because of an arm injury.
He returned to the Blue Jays lineup on May 18 and hit a two-run homer off the Twins’ Carl Pavano in Toronto. That was a warmup.
The Blue Jays came to Minnesota for the final series of the first season in Target Field. The Twins were headed for the postseason, and three consecutive losses to the Yankees, but faced quite a power barrage from the Blue Jays.
In the opener, Encarnacion and Jose Bautista hit two home runs apiece and the Blue Jays totaled six. Fans might recall that this was when Target Field’s combination of long distances and the legendary “wet cement” was keeping fly balls in the ballpark.
Encarnacion’s two home runs in the Thursday game came off Francisco Liriano. He hit another Friday, a three-runner off Jesse Crain. He hit another off Brian Duensing on Saturday. And he concluded with a home run off Nick Blackburn on Sunday.
Five home runs and 10 RBI in his four games at Target Field.
This five home runs were mentioned to Encarnacion on Sunday, as he represented the Yankees in an interview session in advance on Monday’s Game 3 at Target Field — which could result in a third consecutive Yankees postseason sweep over the Twins.
“Yes, that’s true,” Encarnacion said. “I believe it was when the stadium opened here. I don’t know … I just see the ball well here. I just enjoy hitting here.”
Encarnacion was with Seattle in May and hit hits 16th career home run in Target Field. He was traded from the Mariners to the Yankees on June 15, returned to Target Field in late July and hit his 17th home run.
That tied with him Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for most home runs by an opponent in the 10 seasons of Target Field. Carlos Santana, here often with Cleveland, is next with 16, followed by Bautista at 14 and Miguel Cabrera at 12.
Encarnacion was hit by a pitch in early August, had a break in a wrist and missed a month with the Yankees. He came back on Sept. 2, lasted 10 days, and then pulled a quad. He did not play again until Game 1 of this Division Series — and immediately started hitting rockets.
He entered the lineup batting fourth, lined a double off Jose Berrios in his first at-bat, and then another double in the three-run third. He is 4-for-9 with three RBI in two games. And try as he might, the Twins couldn’t get Encarnacion to chase breaking pitches off the plate — something for which he was vulnerable as a less-experienced hitter.
“I’m looking for a fastball that’s a pitch I can hit, that I can manage,” Encarnacion said Sunday. “I swung at a couple of breaking balls, as well, but I’ve been able to recognize those pitches and lay off most of them.”