Photo by Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
By Rich Mancuso
Edwin Encarnacion is not slowing down and the Toronto Blue Jays hope his MVP season at the plate continues. He is one of the reasons why Toronto has a golden opportunity to take control down the stretch in a tight division battle for first in the Al East with Baltimore and Boston.
Then there is the Mexican born Marco Estrada. He is a part of a Blue Jays pitching rotation that can be another component of making this a special year up in Toronto. The nucleus of course, outstanding pitching and good hitting and the Blue Jays have what it takes to play baseball deep into October.
Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Estrada did not have that MVP type of night. The young and renewed Yankees lineup go to the righthander early in the first four innings on five runs and four hits. The rains came, the Yankees pitching crumbled and Estrada did not fair in the decision as Toronto got the comeback win.
Encarnacion, the 33-year old veteran from La Romana Dominican Republic, with 10-years of service that also included five years in Cincinnati, became the first player to reach 100 RBI this season and tied for first in home runs with 34.
He said, “That’s the goal of every ballplayer to get there.” He is the only MLB player with 30 home runs and 100 RBI in four of the last five seasons and no player has hit more home runs since 2012.
“Thirty homers and 100 RBIs,” said Encarnacion. “Thank God for helping me to get to those numbers and we still have one month and two weeks left, So, I’m happy. His two-run homer in the eighth inning tied the game at 6, which led to an eight-run inning and eventual 12-6 win.
And it is not an easy out when it comes to approaching Encarnacion at the plate. He knows when to spot a pitch as the Yankees Adam Warren learned. The situation before the home run was looking for a breaking ball or fastball.
“They’ve been throwing me a lot of breaking pitches, so in that situation I know they weren’t going to throw a fastball,” he said.
Toronto, as a team leads all Major League teams in home runs, and with Jose Bautista on the disabled list they still manage to give opposing AL managers a headache. Troy Tulowitzki has 21 home runs, Josh Donaldson with 28 and Michael Saunders with 27 lead the brigade.
So, Encarnacion can have a bad day or night at the plate. However, with the Blue Jays coming up short in the postseason last year, he intends to continue causing havoc to American league pitching.
As for Estrada, the 32-year old righthander from Sonora Mexico and residing in Peoria, Arizona, consistent pitching in the Blue Jays rotation is a key to a possible weak link of the team. He was 7-5 with a 2.95 ERA before the start against New York, but limited opposing teams to three earned runs or fewer in 13 outings.
“I give up five and get a no decision,” he said about the short outing that was caused by a 42-minute rain delay. “Most of my losses have been three runs or less. Just the way baseball works sometimes.”
Estrada is also the veteran who makes adjustments. He works in between starts on his pitches, including the changeup that got him into trouble as the new Yankees phenom from the Dominican Republic, catcher Gary Sanchez had his first career multi-home run game off the changeup.
“Can’t be doing stuff like that,” he said. “Like I said, the way baseball works at times. I did a few things different and some things happen in between and I wasn’t able to follow through. I have to stick to my routine, that’s all.”
And with the Blue Jays a strong hitting team, Estrada was grateful that his teammates was able to get him off the hook. Perhaps the rain delay helped their cause, but Estrada knows he has a teammate in Encarnacion that can change the complexion of a game and it can happen fast.
“Sometimes you get a bad outing and your teammates bail you out,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to forget when you are not making your pitches and I will go right back and adjust.”
Not a bad combination for a night. And the Blue Jays know that Estrada works on those adjustments. More so, if Encarnacion keeps up this pace along with the rest of the Blue Jays lineup, Estrada and three runs allowed will be more than sufficient.