Wilner: Encarnacion a rare bright spot for Jays

Encarnacion has now hit 35 home runs in back-to-back seasons for the Jays
September 2, 2013, 9:05 PM

PHOENIX — The Toronto Blue Jays opened up their penultimate road trip of the season with a brilliantly-pitched, well-defended win in a game that saw them turn four double plays and even give Sergio Santos an at-bat in a rather interesting point in the afternoon (he grounded out).

When it was all done, five September call-ups were announced: Pitchers Kyle Drabek, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Perez and Ricky Romero and catcher Mike Nickeas, a Vancouver native.

Here are three things that stood out to me about the Blue Jays’ Labour Day victory, their sixth in eight games:

Blue Jays Talk: Sept. 2

HARDLY LABOURIOUS:

Esmil Rogers hadn’t started in 13 days and had made just one relief appearance over that span, but he didn’t look rusty at all as he thoroughly dominated the Diamondbacks in the Interleague Labour Day Classic.

Rogers threw an eight-pitch perfect first inning and that was simply a glimpse of what was to come. Over the first six innings of the game, Rogers faced the minimum 18 hitters, giving up just a Martin Prado single that was erased by a 4-6-3 double play on the next pitch.

Rogers allowed just three balls to be hit out of the infield over those first six frames, and didn’t issue a walk until he handed out a free pass to Tony Campana to lead off the seventh. Rogers then struck out Adam Eaton and hit the showers.

It was an incredible outing by a guy who has had a few incredible outings for the Blue Jays this season. Rogers has allowed just one run or fewer in seven of his 16 starts. On the flipside, he’s had four starts in which he’s allowed seven runs or more — hence his demotion to the bullpen last month.

As the Blue Jays look to find answers to their starting pitching woes, starts like these make it very difficult to ignore Rogers as a consideration.

THE KIDS REMAIN ALL RIGHT:

The Blue Jays got Rogers more than he would need with a two-run rally in the second inning off Brandon McCarthy, and it was a good thing they did, because there wasn’t another Jays hit until the ninth.

All three second-inning hits came off the bats of players who spent the majority of the season wearing the uniform of the Buffalo Bisons. But with the Blue Jays’ entire starting outfield on the disabled list, we’ve seen quite a lot of Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra and it was that trio that got things going for the visitors on Monday.

Sierra, surprisingly batting sixth in the lineup with the absence of the designated hitter, got things started by blasting a one-out double off the base of the wall in dead centre. After a Josh Thole groundout moved him to third, it was Pillar’s turn. The rookie leftfielder just got enough of a pitch to flare it out of the reach of shortstop Cliff Pennington and into shallow left field for an RBI single. Gose was next, and he crushed one off the wall in centre, approximately 410 feet away, driving in Pillar with a triple.

It’s not likely that any of the three will be able to steal a job from Colby Rasmus or Jose Bautista going into next season (though there could very well be an opening in left field), but it’s great to see each of them taking advantage of their opportunities late in this season.

WALKING THE PARROT:

Two years ago, Edwin Encarnacion made it through waivers, with every team in the big-leagues having had a free shot at him. No one was interested.

Now Encarnacion is setting records, the latest coming Monday when he took McCarthy deep into the Arizona afternoon in the top of the ninth, cashing Ryan Goins’ leadoff single.

The home run was Encarnacion’s 35th of the season and 101st RBI on the campaign, this with 24 games remaining in what’s been a sad, upsetting, frustrating season in which the slugger has been one of a very few bright spots.

In going deep Monday evening, though, Encarnacion became just the fifth Blue Jay to post consecutive seasons with at least 35 homers, joining Jose Bautista, Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green and Fred McGriff, and only the fourth to have at least 100 RBIs to go with those at least 35 big flies in back-to-back seasons (McGriff never had an 100-RBI season as a Blue Jay).

That milestone goes very nicely with Encarnacion having picked up his 1,000th career hit back on Saturday afternoon.

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