Francona still sees Encarnacion as Indians' next gear

With Ramirez and Lindor scalding, EE tying things together

Alex Hooper
June 24, 2018 - 5:51 pm
un 24, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) celebrates after hitting a grand slam home run during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – When the Cleveland Indians decided to venture outside their normal business model in December of 2016, offering Edwin Encarnacion a three-year, $60 million deal, there was a reason for it.

The first baseman/designated hitter was presumed to be the final piece of the puzzle after a pitching-first squad marched to the World Series two months earlier. Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and the 35-year-old still seems to be the cherry on top, if not the straw that stirs the drink.

Encarnacion uncorked his 18th home run of the season Sunday in a 12-2 thrashing of the division rival Detroit Tigers, his 11th career grand slam, slamming the door on the game in the 8th. It was the finishing touch on a game that saw MVP candidates Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez each homer, and another flash of how good the Indians offense can be at full power.

To make matters worse for the Tigers, Manager Ron Gardenhire had made the decision to walk the red hot Ramirez to load the bases for Encarnacion. While he might have offended all of Detroit himself, Encarnacion was not offended by the decision.

“It’s part of the game, you know. Ramirez is hot right now, I’m hitting behind him. So I just try to do the best I can do,” he said. “You can ask any baseball player, they like to hit with runners in scoring position. So, I love that. I just try to do my job.”

Since May 25th, Encarnacion has slashed .287/.350/.564 with 8 home runs and 27 runs driven in, and in that stretch, the Indians are 19-9.

The bash brothers, Lindor and Ramirez, each thought to be flashy middle infielders coming through the minor league system, each currently pace the team in home runs at 19 and 23, respectively. Ramirez, the diminutive former utility man, ended the game tied for the Major League lead in longballs.

The game’s third-leading active home run hitter did not mind taking a back seat to, nor watching Ramirez at all.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s been impressive, man. But I’m not surprised. He’s got a great swing, great compact swing. I’m not surprised at all,” Encarnacion said.

The free pass in the 8th inning was Ramirez’s 7th time being intentionally walked this season, placing him in a tie for 6th in baseball with San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford. Even when unintentional, Ramirez has had to settle for more walks in general because of his upswing in power, which has in turn made him a better overall hitter.

“I’m concentrated on what I want in each at-bat. I try to just keep my focus,” Ramirez said. “And thank god everything’s kind of turning out for me when I am able to keep my focus and stay concentrated on what I want.”

During his ascent to the top of WAR leaderboards and the minds of opposing managers alike, Indians Manager Terry Francona is hopeful that those on the other side will have to continue to mind his cleanup hitter, too.

“When Edwin swings like that, it has to make them think twice,” Francona said. “Then when they pitch around somebody, you love to see it hurt the other team. And you can tell Edwin was really bearing down there. But those two play at such a high level every day. They bring it every day.”