CLEVELAND — Edwin Encarnacion’s first home run probably did enough damage to help ace Corey Kluber lead the Indians to a win. The slugger’s second blast of the day made sure of it. His third put his name in Cleveland’s history book.
Powered by Encarnacion’s third career three-homer performance, the Indians enjoyed a 12-4 rout against the Rangers on Wednesday at Progressive Field. His first two blasts came against Texas lefty Matt Moore within an outpouring of offense by Cleveland in the first three innings.
“We’ve all seen how hot he can get,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, “where he can kind of put you on his shoulders a little bit.”
Encarnacion capped off a four-run first inning by belting a changeup from Moore out to left for a three-run homer. One inning later, the Tribe’s designated hitter sent a first-pitch fastball from the lefty out to center for a two-run blast. Encarnacion’s third homer — his ninth overall on the season — was a 425-foot rocket over the 19-foot wall in left against Jesse Chavez in the eighth.
It marked Encarnacion’s 30th career multihomer game, with his most recent coming on April 1 on the road against the Mariners. Encarnacion now has five games with at least two homers in his two seasons in Cleveland. His performance represented the 33rd game with at least three homers by an Indians hitter in team history, and the first since Lonnie Chisenhall’s five-hit, nine-RBI showing against Texas on June 9, 2014.
“I don’t think about that,” Encarnacion said of his powerful feat. “I just think about, ‘Keep making good contact,’ and if the result comes for me, good for me, thank God.”
After the win, Encarnacion returned to his locker, where he fielded a video call from Angels slugger Albert Pujols. Encarnacion turned the phone to show that the pack of reporters were waiting on him. Pujols smiled wide on the screen and offered a quick congratulations to his friend.
“We talk about hitting,” Encarnacion said. “He’s a great guy.”
Moore was charged with 10 runs on 11 hits in four innings, which also included a three-run home run off the bat of Jason Kipnis in the second. Francisco Lindor added a towering solo shot in the eighth inning off reliever Chavez, sending the pitch 444 feet to center. Per Statcast™, it was both the second-longest and second-hardest (109.2-mph exit velocity) homer of Lindor’s career.
That early onslaught allowed Kluber to settle into cruise control over seven innings en route to his fifth win of the year. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner struck out six, walked none and allowed three runs, each on solo homers. Nomar Mazara, Juan Centeno and Joey Gallo went deep against Kluber, but it was too little, too late in light of Encarnacion’s day.
“Obviously, that’s a huge cushion,” said Kluber, who has a 2.41 ERA through seven starts this season. “It allows you to go out there and be aggressive and attack the zone and, ideally, get deep into the game.”
Heading into the contest, Encarnacion was batting .171 with a .352 slugging percentage as part of a slow start reminiscent to last season. A year ago, the slugger labored through a dismal April before heating up in May, and then finishing with 38 homers and 107 RBIs on the year.
Encarnacion’s showing against Texas boosted his season slugging percentage to .445, providing hope that he is turning a corner like he did last year.
“I know he’s not happy with the way April was,” Francona said. “But it’s good to see him relaxed and smiling. You can tell the way the guys react to him, the way they feel about him. We’re a different team when he swings the bat like that.”