Encarnacion striking fear into the Twins

By: Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

MINNEAPOLIS _ Do the Minnesota Twins respect Edwin Encarnacion.

Or is mostly fear?

Oswaldo Arcia was playing Encarnacion so deep when he came to the plate in the 11th inning that the Twins left fielder was actually standing on the warning track. 

If Arcia was any deeper he would have been in section 129 with the paying customers.

Encarnacion reached on a broken bat single, Ezequiel Carrera pinch ran, advanced on a Justin Smoak single and scored the winning run on a Troy Tulowitzki liner.

The three hits in the 11th -- the Jays only had six hits the first 10 innings -- gave Toronto a 3-2 win before 25,435 fans at Target Field. 

“Jose (Bautista) could have had the game-winning hit the inning before but they made a diving stop,” said Tulowitzki. Toronto had lost five straight for the first time since September 2013 when Brad Lincoln, Neil Wagner, Darren Oliver, R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond and Chien-Ming Wang were the losers in seven straight.

Roberto Osuna worked two innings without a base runner to record the win, while Joe Biagini picked up his first save in 90 pro appearances. The Rule V draft showed poise when Danny Santana broke early attempting to steal for second in the 11th. Biagini stepped off and threw a strike to second for the second out.  

Russell Martin said Santana did the same thing when he stole second in the third.

“What’s that old saying ‘Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,’” said Martin, “the whole bench was screaming “Step OF, Step off.”

R.A. Dickey was impressed with the rookie’s scoreless inning but none more than the way he calmly stepped off the rubber -- a balk was not called -- spun and fired to second. 

The Jays new lineup had Jose Bautista leading off, Edwin Encarnacion third and Justin Smoak clean up. 

HIT THE TARGET: Since Target Field opened in 2010, the Jays have hit 31 home runs in 21 games. That’s the second highest total other than American League East parks.

The only visiting park not in the East where they have hit more is Globe Life in Arlington, Tex., where they have hit 42 in 26 games. 

“I like the hitting back drop here, this is one of my top two favorites for sure,” said Encarnacion before Thursday night’s opener. He had five homers in four games on the Jays first visit the final weekend of the 2010 season.

Encarnacion rated his favorite two stadiums to visit as Target and Fenway Park, a possible Encarnacion destination next year since the Jays have shown little interest in resigning the soon to be free agent.

Next to Arizona’s Chase Field and Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Ballpark, of the stadiums he has been to more than once, Encarnacion has the highest OPS in Minneapolis at .988.

The Jays were trailing 2-0 in the sixth when Josh Donaldson walked and Encarnacion hit the first pitch he saw into the second deck in left. After a three-hit night, he is now batting .358, with a double, seven homers and 18 RBIs in 20 games.

Bautista hit a lead-off single in the first and has shown the most production at Target of parks he has been to more than once at Target hitting .356 with five doubles, 11 homers and 17 RBIs.  

“My favorite places to hit? Fenway Park, here and at home,” said Bautista. 

JIMMY BALL GAME: New Blue Jays second baseman Jimmy Paredes had it backwards.

First he taketh away: a between the wickets clank leading to the Minnesota Twins first run.

And then he giveth: a lead-off double in the 10th. Except the Jays -- Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista -- could only manage three ground balls Brandon Kintzler, which couldn’t get him home. Shortstop Eduardo Nunez made a diving stop to save a run stealing a hit from Bautista.

Ryan Goins took over in the 11th after the Jays had the lead. 

IN GAME: Third baseman Donaldson made a diving stop of a Byung Ho Park liner in the 10th ... With Michael Saunders on second and two out in the top of the ninth, Twins centre fielder Danny Santana made a game-saving grab stealing extra bases away from Tulowitzki with a grab on the warning track ... Tulowitzki then stole a base hit on a hard smash from Joe Mauer ... The go-go Twins used small ball up 2-0 as Danny Santana beat out a roller to Donaldson on a bang-bang play at first. Santana scored on Mauer’s one hopper with two out in the third to centre fielder Kevin Pillar.

Mauer went to second on the throw home as Russell Martin fired to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who applied the tag. Mauer was ruled safe, but the Jays appealed and the ruling on the field was overturned after a 50-second delay. Mauer slid in safely but in popping up came off the base ... The Twins used a Jays error to take the lead in the first. One out after Brian Dozier’s single, Paredes clanked a grounder from Mauer, allowing Dozier to race to third. He scored on a fly ball off the bat of Miguel Sano.

PITCHING TOUGH: In a game neither starting pitcher deserved to lose, neither did. Marco Estrada was impressive again working eight innings allowing one earned run on three singles and a walk, while fanning nine. He threw 104 pitches (68 strikes) lowering his ERA to 2.61, Estrada retired the final 10 men he faced in order ...

Santana also pitched eight innings allowing six base runners (four hits, two walks) and two runs. His ERA is 3.13 after setting down 13 straight from Encarnacion’s first-inning single with two out to Russell Martin’s fifth inning single with two out. Santana spurned the Jays first in 2014 and then on this night he burned them, turning away the Blue Jays new, revamped and not improved lineup.

Toronto thought it had an agreement to sign the free-agent right-hander to a one-year $14.1 million US deal in the spring of 2014. Then the Atlanta Braves lost two starters to season-ending injuries and Santana headed south. Santana was stingy despite facing the Blue Jays new look lineup.