Encarnacion blip ends with a bang

Edwin Encarnacion emerged from a blip in his recent surge with his second multi-homer game of the season in Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Cleveland Indians, a sign he’s back in the groove ahead of a three-game series in Texas.

Pencilled in as the designated hitter for the second straight night after a bout of upper back spasms struck Wednesday, he hit a solo shot to open the scoring in the second and then added a two-run drive in the fifth inning to provide some breathing room.

“For me, it’s a lot more comfortable,” Encarnacion says of where his swing is at. “I feel a lot better at the plate, the last couple of games I haven’t been getting hits, but I feel great at the plate the last couple of weeks. I’m very happy and very proud because I know when I feel like that I can help my team win a lot of games.”

The first homer ended an 0-for-7 slide, he doubled off the wall in left-centre in the third before the homer in the fifth, and then he lined out to third in the seventh. Every ball he hit was a rocket.

“He’s one of the top sluggers in the game,” says manager John Gibbons. “Got off to a slow start, then he kicked it in. You look where he’s at now too, he’s been barreling a lot of balls all year, especially the last month, and a number of times he got nothing to show for it. So his numbers could be even better now with little breaks here or there, a little luck.”

Encarnacion said his back spasms “felt a lot better” Thursday while Gibbons quipped that “maybe he wanted to DH.”

When he does DH, Encarnacion spends more time in game watching video of the pitcher on the mound, and he says, “I don’t know if that helps me, but the only thing I know is I have a lot more time to work on the video, watching the pitchers, so I can see how he throws, how he throws to (Jose) Bautista before I face him, all that stuff. I don’t know if it helps me or not, but I have more time.”

J.A. Happ “stepped up” in the words of John Gibbons with six innings of one-run ball to pace the Blue Jays in the victory. Now that Dustin McGowan is back in the bullpen and a solution in the rotation is needed, Happ is even more important to the starting staff.

Helping him on this night was a pre-game meeting with catcher Erik Kratz, as Arden Zwelling details.

Anthony Gose didn’t have a hit but reached base twice in four trips to the plate and made a couple of long running catches to steal hits in centre field. He’s up to platoon in centre with Kevin Pillar while Colby Rasmus is on the disabled list.

“Defensively, he’s as good as anybody, you’re not going to find a better centre-fielder. The key is to get comfortable at this level,” John Gibbons said of Gose. “He’s got that look in his eye. I haven’t seen him play in the minor leagues, but he feels like he belongs. I’ll tell you what, he’ll take away a lot of hits out there in centre field for you.”

As for Rasmus, he landed on the DL with right hamstring tightness. The initial thought was that he’d play Friday, but Gibbons says, “he’s just not healing quick enough. Figured we’d better put him on the DL. It’s tough playing short. He’s probably better off.”

The victory was the 400th for John Gibbons, who is now 400-414 as manager of the Blue Jays.

“In managerial history, I don’t know if that means a lot,” he says. “It’s a nice round number.”

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