The longtime Blue Jays slugger developed into one of the best hitters in baseball over the past five seasons, with his 193 home runs and 550 RBIs ranking second in MLB over that span.
To mark his contributions to the Blue Birds, here are the five most memorable moments of Encarnacion’s tenure with the club.
A wild walk off
Jose Bautista will always be remembered for “The Bat Flip,” but Encarnacion came up with a signature moment of his own in the 2016 American League Wild Card game — “The Bat Drop.”
It was 2-2 in the 11th inning and 50,000 Blue Jays patrons were on their feet at the Rogers Centre. With Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson waiting on base, Edwin approached the batters box to face Baltimore Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (Zach Britton was being rested for 2017). After a mound visit by Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace, Jimenez threw a first pitch 91 mph fastball down the heart of the plate to a man who hit 42 home runs in the regular season, and he didn’t miss it.
After the game, Encarnacion told Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae, “that’s why I want to come back here, because that happened tonight.”
Before the seventh inning
The seventh inning in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers will go down as one of the wildest innings in baseball history. It was the defining moment in a historic season for Toronto that saw its 22-year playoff drought come to an end and baseball fever spread across the nation.
Before that, though, Encarnacion hit his first career post-season home run. With his team down 2-1 in the sixth inning and Rangers ace Cole Hamels cruising, Edwin crushed a loud 457-foot home run to left field that tied the ballgame.
It was the spark his team needed in a crucial moment. It changed the tempo and provided a release for an anxious crowd. It also paved the way for the unforgettable seventh inning.
Russell Martin highlighted the significance of the solo blast when he told reporters after the game that Edwin’s home run is what ignited them. “He’ll hit your best fastball. He’ll hit your hanging breaking ball. That was the hit that got us back in the game. It was a rocket. From that point on … it made us believe.”
The 300 club
Only four Blue Jays have reached the 300 home run plateau. On Aug. 12, 2016, Encarnacion became one of them. His solo shot in a 5-3 loss to the Houston Astros was far from dramatic, but it still meant something, as did the 299 he hit before that. Adding 300 home runs to his resume helps his case as one of the greatest in Blue Jays history.
Now, Encarnacion sits at 310 career regular season home runs; 239 of them, plus four post-season round-trippers were with the Blue Jays. According to Canadian Michael Saunders, who idolized Blue Jays players growing up, Edwin should one day be included on the Level of Excellence with the likes of Roberto Alomar, George Bell and Carlos Delgado.
Encarnacion is in the top 10 on the Blue Jays’ all-time list in runs, RBIs, walks, doubles, home runs, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS.
Encarnacion’s parrot-walking-home-run-trot is a fan favourite and on Aug. 29, 2015, he treated fans to three of them.
Fans littered the field with ball caps in honour of Edwin’s seventh-inning grand slam — he also hit a three-run homer in the first and two-run shot in the sixth — taking a page out of the hockey books. The gesture appeared to start a tradition in Canadian baseball because Josh Donaldson received the hat trick treatment when he accomplished the feat the following season.
Encarnacion finished the greatest individual performance of his career 3-for-5 with nine RBIs and extended his hitting streak to 24 games. He also got a bunch of free hats.
When you get your name written beside the great Mickey Mantle, you did something right. Only six players in MLB history hit more home runs in a month than Encarnacion’s 16 in May 2014 (Barry Bonds — 17, Sammy Sosa — 20 and 17, Willy Mays — 17, Rudy York — 18, Babe Ruth — 17, Albert Belle — 17, via Baseball Almanac). Mantle had 16 in May 1956.
Encarnacion went on a torrid streak that included 12 home runs in 14 games between May 15 and 29. There were plenty of stretches during his Blue Jays tenure when he looked like an impossible out, but his May 2014 power display was one to remember.
Here’s a breakdown of how it happened: