Encarnacion ties Mantle for most AL homers hit in May
First baseman drills two vs. Royals to break Blue Jays mark for any month with 16
TORONTO -- Edwin Encarnacion's production during May has been so hot that his name is now being mentioned alongside some of the game's all-time greats.
Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Harmon Killebrew, George Bell and Mark McGwire. This is the type of company that Encarnacion now finds himself in following a record-shattering month.
Encarnacion had yet another multihomer game in an 8-6 loss to the Royals on Thursday night. His home run total for May sits at 16, which ties Mantle for the all-time American League record in the month and is just one shy of Bonds for the Major League Baseball record.
"Unbelievable," Encarnacion said. "If you asked me, am I going to hit 16 homers in one month? I'm going to say no. I never thought I'd hit 16 homers, but when you have the timing like I have right now, you have to keep going, keep swinging hard like the way I've been doing."
With two games remaining this month, Encarnacion still has a little bit more time to do additional damage. Mantle had 16 in May 1956 and Bonds upped that total by one in 2001. But that's not the only record which is currently within striking distance for Toronto's first baseman.
The most home runs hit in a single month by an AL player is 18. That was accomplished by catcher/first baseman Rudy York in August 1937. Sammy Sosa owns the top mark in either league with the 20 he hit during a historic run in June 1998. But there's still more.
Encarnacion became the third player in MLB history to have five multihomer games in a month. Killebrew did that in May 1959, and Albert Belle had an equal number in September 1995. No one has ever done it six times, but the way Encarnacion has been hitting recently, he can't be completely ruled out.
The Blue Jays suffered a difficult loss vs. Kansas City on Thursday night as they came within one out of a 6-5 victory but instead ended up losing 8-6 in 10 innings. That snapped a nine-game winning streak and even though the atmosphere inside their clubhouse was one of disappointment, Encarnacion's teammates couldn't help but marvel at his recent accomplishments.
"We don't want to touch his bat right now because it's so hot," shortstop Jose Reyes said with a smile.
Almost lost in all the commotion of the Major League records is the fact that Encarnacion also set a new franchise mark. Encarnacion's home run in the fourth inning off right-hander James Shields set a Blue Jays record for the most in a single month. Jose Bautista previously shared the honor with 14 in June 2012.
Encarnacion wasn't done there, he was back at it again in the sixth with another two-run shot off Shields. That brought his RBI total up to 33, which broke Bell's previous record of 31 in 1987 for the most by a Blue Jays player in May. With one more, Encarnacion will tie Carlos Delgado's overall club record from June 2003.
All of this is made even more remarkable considering Encarnacion got off to a slow start this season. He didn't hit his first home run until April 22, but he has been on fire almost ever since. Encarnacion has reached base safely in 39 of his past 45 games and has 12 doubles, one triple, 18 homers, and 48 RBIs over that span. The numbers are almost mind-boggling.
"I don't know what to tell you other than it's pretty amazing," manager John Gibbons said. "He's a special guy, he's really locked in now. He's one of the elite hitters in Major League Baseball. He's really come into his own the last few years."
This is the same player that was available to any team in baseball just a few years ago. In 2010, Encarnacion was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays, but he went unclaimed and instead found himself outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Toronto eventually brought Encarnacion back only to put him on waivers once again at the end of the season. Oakland put in a claim and within three weeks made the decision to non-tender his contract. In a surprise turn of events, the Blue Jays opted to sign him to a one-year contract a couple of weeks after that.
Encarnacion then battled wrist problems and went through an up-and-down 2011 season. Still, it was just enough to remain in the fold for another year and ever since, Encarnacion has been one of the game's top hitters. From 2012-13 he combined to hit 52 homers and 214 RBIs with an OPS over .900. This year, he's hitting .268 with 18 home runs, 48 RBIs, 23 walks and a Major-League leading 22 extra-base hits in May.
In a stadium where he was once booed, Encarnacion is now treated like royalty. He received a standing ovation on Thursday night after his second home run as chants of "Eddie, Eddie" went through the crowd. A few people even yelled "MVP." That was unfathomable in 2010.
"It's a great feeling now compared to where I was before, at the beginning here," Encarnacion said. "That's why you have to keep working hard, keep doing your routine so good things can happen. That's why I keep my head up, keep working and you'll see what's happened right now."