It was a two-bird night for Edwin Encarnacion.
The Yankees slugger belted a pair of home runs Monday night in what he called his best game in pinstripes and gave the fans two glimpses of his trademark “parrot” as he circled the bases.
Asked about a performance in which he had a solo homer in the fourth inning and a go-ahead two-run shot in the eighth in what became a 5-4 loss to the Rays, Encarnacion answered: “So far it was my best game, but we lost — it’s part of the game” with a certain emphasis on "so far.”
Encarnacion was acquired in a mid-June trade with Seattle and was the American League home run leader at the time. Though manager Aaron Boone had said all along that Encarnacion was having good turns at the plate, the production hadn’t followed. Now he may have hit his groove.
In his last three games, he is 4-for-11 with six RBIs. In the dozen before that, he was 5-for-50 with three RBIs. Entering Monday night, in his first 18 games since the trade, he was batting .139 with four home runs and 10 RBIs.
“I really feel like even though I know he hasn't gotten a ton of results yet, I feel like the at-bats have been there,” Boone said earlier in the homestand. “You can see it's a lot to get through him. You've got to execute. He's missed some pitches I think that he's probably been on [and] he hasn't swung it as great as he's going to.”
Encarnacion suggested he knew a game like this was near on the horizon.
“I know what I’ve got,” he said. “I know what I can do.”
His first home run cut Tampa Bay's lead to 2-1. His second put the Yankees ahead 4-2 and resulted from a nine-pitch battle with righty Andrew Kittredge. He fouled off three full-count pitches before hitting the home run. On the pitch before the homer, his foul ball hewed close enough to the leftfield foul pole that the Stadium crowd was on its feet roaring.
He belted the next pitch hard — it left the bat at 106 mph — and it landed several rows up in the leftfield stands, an estimated 404 feet away, for his 27th homer.
“I just tried to stay aggressive and look for my pitch in the strike zone and try to not miss it,” Encarnacion said.
“I don’t worry about Edwin,” Boone said. “He controls the zone. He’s got such good power. He has a really good plan of what he’s doing there.”
Encarnacion’s first multihomer game with the Yankees was his fourth of the season and 36th of his career. The Angels’ Albert Pujols (59) and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera (39) are the only active players with more than Encarnacion.
“He's a really good hitter and he's a presence in our lineup,” Boone said. “I love how he looks in our lineup.”