MINNEAPOLIS -- Much has been written about right fielder Jose Bautista's success at Minnesota's Target Field (nine home runs in nine games), but there's another Blue Jays slugger who's dented his own share of seats in the Twins' new ballpark.
Edwin Encarnacion blasted his 11th home run of the season Friday night and nobody who's followed the Twins the last few years could have been surprised. A career .320 hitter with eight home runs and 21 RBIs in 20 games against Minnesota, Encarnacion now has six home runs in nine games at Target Field.
In the ninth inning on Friday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire showed Encarnacion the ultimate sign of respect when he elected to pitch to Bautista, who had already homered twice in the game, with the tying run on third and two outs, rather than walk him and pitch to the next guy.
That's because the next guy was Encarnacion, and Gardenhire had already seen him do enough damage against the Twins, including a five-homer series here at the end of the 2010 season.
"We've watched him play over the years, and he's had those [times] where you don't really know if he's going to do exactly what they expected. But he's gotten better every year we've seen him," Gardenhire said of Encarnacion. "He really gets the bat head on the ball more and more. Last year, we thought: 'Wow, he's really figured it out." And this year it looks like he's really confident at the plate."
Coupled with Bautista, that gives Toronto a one-two punch to give the Twins nightmares for years to come.
"That's two really good hitters you're talking about. They're strong and know how to hit the ball in the seats," Gardenhire said. "They make it happen. We try different things on them, so we hope to keep it in the ballpark."