Finally! Thursday night was the game the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans have been waiting for all season long - the big offensive outburst that illustrates why this team was pegged as World Series favourites entering the season and why they can be a nightmare match-up for whatever squad takes the field against them.
In the final game of their four-game set with the Texas Rangers, the Blue Jays erupted for 12 runs on 15 hits, with five players having a multi-hit game and six collecting RBIs in Toronto’s most complete and impressive performance of the year.
After giving up a run in the top of the first, the Jays posted five in their half of the inning, capped by Edwin Encarnacion’s three-run double. Two innings later, they loaded the bases again and this time, they put up even more. Kevin Pillar doubled, driving home two, and after an intentional walk and a fielder’s choice, Encarnacion crushed a batting practice offering from Derek Holland, chasing the Rangers starter from the game and showing the true force of this offense.
In the previous 29 games, the Jays struggled to come through in the clutch, missing out on opportunities with runners in scoring position, collecting one run when three or four were out there. But Thursday, everything clicked – everyone clicked – and the explosive offense returned en masse.
Encarnacion set the pace, collecting three hits and six RBI, but it was a group effort through and through. Kevin Pillar, back in the leadoff spot with Michael Saunders getting a day off against the lefty Holland, went 3-for-5 and drove in two. Josh Donaldson went 1-for-3 and scored three runs. And the lower third of the order – Russell Martin, Darwin Barney and Ezequiel Carrera went a combined 6-for-11 with three runs scored and two RBI.
The outburst at the plate overshadowed another terrific outing on the mound from J.A. Happ, who went seven innings, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out five, picking up his fourth victory of the year. Many people questioned the Blue jays when they brought the veteran lefty back in the offseason, but thus far, Happ has proven that the success he enjoyed in Pittsburgh last season wasn’t a fluke and is beginning to look like one of the best bargain signings of the year thus far.
Player of the Game: Edwin Encarnacion
Texas coming to town seems to have been exactly what Encarnacion needed as the slugger went 6-for-14 (.428) with two home runs, 8 RBI and four runs scored. When Encarnacion is running hot, he can put up big numbers in bunches and that came through on Thursday, as he hit everything hard, smacking a pair of doubles and a three-run home run. With home runs in back-to-back games and a slugging percentage that is starting to climb, Encarnacion could be queuing up for another massive May. Over the last three years, Encarnacion has hit 30 of his 109 home runs over that span in May, by far his highest total of any month.
On Deck: Toronto welcomes the Los Angeles Dodgers to town for a three-game set that culminates with a game on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. In the series opener on Friday, the Jays send Marcus Stroman (4-0, 3.77) to the mound, while the Dodgers counter with righthander Kenta Maeda (3-1, 1.41).