MINNEAPOLIS — There was a time when some Yankees fans were upset with Brian Cashman for not acquiring a starting pitcher at the July 31 trade deadline.
Aaron Boone wasn’t that upset. He knew Cashman had tried his best. The manager also knew Cashman already had made a June 15 deal that bolstered the Yankees’ lineup. What he didn't know was that the benefits would be felt in the first two games of the AL Division Series against the Twins.
Edwin Encarnacion, whom Cashman picked up from Seattle six weeks before the trade deadline, drove in the first run in each of the Yankees’ ALDS victories in the Bronx. It’s nothing new for the 15-year veteran, who goes into Monday night’s Game 3 with four hits and a walk in 10 plate appearances in his fifth consecutive postseason (with three different teams).
In June, Encarnacion was available to any contender who wanted a power hitter, and Cashman pounced even though it didn’t appear as if the Yankees needed another slugger. On Monday, Encarnacion will be their cleanup hitter for the third straight postseason game as the Yankees look to finish off the Twins.
“I didn't hear about [the trade] until the very end,” Boone said on Sunday afternoon at Target Field. “I'm assuming it came together fairly quickly with Cash, but I remember it being a possibility the 24 hours before I feel like I was alerted to it. I mean, very excited. I think a lot of people at the time were wondering if we were going to go get pitching, but as Cash has said, this situation presented itself. To get a guy the caliber of Edwin to add to our team, I think everyone has seen, when he's been healthy and in our lineup, what a difference-maker he is right in the middle.”
Encarnacion had 13 homers, 37 RBIs and a .531 slugging percentage in 44 games with the Yankees and finished with 34 homers, 86 RBIs and a .531 slugging percentage in 109 games.
He drove in the Yankees’ first run of the postseason with a double in the third inning of Game 1 when they were trailing 2-0. The Yankees went on to a 10-4 victory.
He drove in the first run of Game 2 with a first-inning single. The Yankees cruised to an 8-2 win.
“He's such a good hitter,” Boone said. “He's so hard to get through. It's a heavyweight fight getting him out, and even when you do get him out, it's work. It's hard. Obviously, he's so dangerous with his power, too. He's been huge. I think him in the middle of the order just kind of settles everything in and makes us really hard to get through, time and time again, and he's right in the middle of that.”
It wasn’t clear if Encarnacion was going to be in the middle of anything when he suffered a left oblique strain on Sept. 12. His next game was Game 1 of the ALDS. It looked as if he hadn’t missed a day.
On Monday, Encarnacion will face Minnesota righthander Jake Odorizzi, who has given him trouble in the past (.186 average in 43 at-bats). But Encarnacion is a career .302 hitter at Target Field with 17 home runs, 46 RBIs and a 1.048 OPS in 45 games.
“I just see the ball well here,” he said. “I just enjoy hitting here.”