CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians just might get some pop back in their lineup in a winner-take-all postseason game.
Indians manager Terry Francona is confident designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion will play against the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 2017 American League Division Series at Progressive Field Wednesday night after missing Games 3 and 4 because of an ankle injury.
“I think so,” Francona said prior to Tuesday’s practice.
“He's been hitting off the machine already, and we're going to have him go out and run just to see where he is running-wise. He was never exactly our biggest base-stealing threat, but we want to use common sense.”
In the bottom of the first inning of Game 2 at Progressive Field last Friday night, the Indians mounted a rally, as they loaded the bases when Encarnacion was hit by a pitch in the knee, and then, drew even at 2-2 when first baseman Carlos Santana smacked a two-run single to left field.
However, on the next play, outfielder Jay Bruce lined out to shortstop, and on his dive toward second base to avoid being doubled up, Encarnacion planted his right foot, but momentum kept him going, which caused his ankle to buckle underneath the weight.
The Yankees challenged the play as Encarnacion writhed in pain in front of second base, and he was removed from the game after being ruled out following the replay review and left Progressive Field in a walking boot.
Encarnacion drew one walk and scored a run in three at-bats in two games against the Yankees in the first two games of the ALDS.
The Indians went in search of a right-handed power bat for the middle of the lineup in the offseason, and they sure found one in Encarnacion, who signed with the team because he believed in Cleveland’s chances to win the World Series.
During the regular season, Encarnacion hit .258 (143 hits in 554 at-bats over 157 games), with 20 doubles, one triple and 38 home runs, 107 RBI, 96 runs scored and 104 walks against 133 strikeouts. Encarnacion led the club in home runs, RBI and walks and was top five in several other categories.
One of those 38 home runs led to a memorable showing as the Indians and Los Angeles Angels were locked in a late-July slugfest at Progressive Field, and it was fitting that with one swing of the bat, Encarnacion smashed the game-winning walk-off hit in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Bradley Zimmer and Francisco Lindor drew back-to-back walks, and then, the Angels issued an intentional free pass to Michael Brantley, which proved to be a costly decision, as it loaded the bases for Encarnacion, the No. 4 hitter in the Indians’ lineup.
On the first pitch he saw from Angels reliever Bud Norris, Encarnacion smashed a belt-high slider over the wall in left-center field, and the 406-foot grand slam gave the Indians an 11-7 victory.
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