The Cleveland Indians hoped first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion would be a feared batter in the middle of their lineup, and he came through in a big way in an 8-5 win over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park Monday night.
Encarnacion went two for five with one RBI on a game-tying home run in the eighth inning and two runs scored in the come-from-behind victory.
“I think we saw what he did,” Indians reliever Andrew Miller said. “He can put the ball in the seats whenever. He’s a professional hitter. He’s going to make us better, and I think that we’re going to really enjoy him for 162 games to put up more runs. He made a nice play defensively for me, and I think he’s just a complete ballplayer, and he’s going to help us win.”
Cleveland Indians open regular season at Texas Rangers
With just one swing of the bat, Encarnacion drew the Indians even with the Rangers in the top of the eighth inning.
After left fielder Michael Brantley flied out to center field for the first out of the inning, Encarnacion stepped into the batter’s box and took a 1-2 offering from Rangers reliever Matt Bush deep and over the wall in left field to make it a 5-5 game.
It was Encarnacion’s first home run as a member of the Indians after signing the largest free-agent contract ever awarded by the franchise.
“Whether it would’ve been today or any day, to hit a game-tying home run that late in the game, it’s obviously a big point in the game,” Indians starter Corey Kluber said.
Indians manager Terry Francona added, “That’s why we got him. It’s a nice feeling. You could tell he had one thing in mind right there, and he did it. He’s a good hitter. Hopefully, there’s a lot more to come.”
Including Monday night’s game, Encarnacion has hit .266 with 1,441 hits over 5,414 at-bats in 1,514 career games at the Major League level. Of those 1,441 hits, 630 have gone for extra bases, including 311 doubles and 311 home runs. Also, Encarnacion has driven in 943 runs, scored another 831 and drawn 662 walks.
During his final year with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016, Encarnacion hit .263 (158 for 601) with 34 doubles, 42 home runs and 127 runs batted in over 160 games. He set career highs with the 158 hits, 99 runs scored, 76 extra-base hits, 127 RBI and 318 total bases. The 42 round-trippers matched his single-season career best.
“I think we were all a little bit surprised when he fell into our lap because they made it sound like we weren’t going to play in that kind of stratosphere,” Miller said. “Fortunately, the combination of our playoff run and the fact that there was a glut of first basemen, he fell into our laps and we’re excited to have him. Certainly tonight, he showed exactly why.”