ANAHEIM, Calif. — Edwin Encarnacion limits his smiles during games to the dugout celebrations and postgame handshakes.
The most emotion he will show is a long stare at one of his prodigious home runs with a bat fling or the home-run trot with right arm crooked and held up, which initially was dubbed “walking the parrot.”
But after crushing his second homer of the day Sunday and taking more than a few seconds to admire what would be a 408-foot blast off right-hander Cody Allen that landed in the glove of teammate Roenis Elias in the visitors’ bullpen, Encarnacion broke into a wide grin as he jogged to first base and his teammates in the dugout cheered wildly. As he rounded first base, he interrupted the parrot walk with double fist-pumps and smiled some more.
Why the outburst of uncharacteristic emotion? It was the 400th home run of his 15-year career. He is just the 56th player in MLB history to reach that milestone.
“It feels good, really good, to accomplish this,” he said with the help of “interpreter” Domingo Santana. “I give the praise to God and I’m just very thankful to reach this milestone.”
Only media members and the Mariners’ dugout knew what he had done, which frustrated manager Scott Servais.
“What can you say about Edwin Encarnacion?” Servais said. “Only 55 other guys have done it and there’s over 19,000 that have played in MLB. I was a little disappointed that nothing showed up on the board here, I got to be honest. But everybody in our dugout knew what was going on and how important it was to him. He’s been a true professional since we’ve got him. I’m really happy for him.”
Encarnacion has hit seven homers in his past eight games and now leads a team he wasn’t expected to play with this season with 20 homers. The Mariners acquired Encarnacion from the Indians in a trade and had planned to move him before the season started. But because of his $20 million contract and a $5 million buyout of his 2020 option, the Mariners didn’t find any takers. If Encarnacion continues at this sort of power production, a trade could come sooner than the July 31 deadline.
To get to 400 homers takes longevity. But upon closer inspection, Encarnacion’s push to that milestone came at a ridiculous rate late in his career. Over his first seven seasons (2005-2011) — 4 1/2 with the Reds and 2 1/2 with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion hit 117 homers in 786 games. But he came alive for 42 homers in the 2012, starting a string of seven consecutive seasons of 30-plus homers. From 2012 to Sunday, he’s hit 283 home runs — the most of any player in that time frame.
“I’m very humbled,” he said.
His two solo homers Sunday gave him 1,200 career RBI — a milestone he didn’t know about.
“Twelve hundred RBI?” he said. “Oh, nice. I like it. Thanks, that’s good. It’s a lot of homers and a lot of RBI. I never expected to get to this point. The only thing I can do is keep working, just keep working hard and focus and do the best I can do to help my team to win.”
When asked if 500 possible, his eyes grew wide.
“I don’t know,” he said laughing.
When it was mentioned he was only 36, he laughed.
“I know, but, we’ll see,” he said. “I’m ready for it. But I don’t think about that. I think about day by day and winning.”
Dee Gordon (bruised wrist) went 1 for 5 with Class AAA Tacoma on Sunday at Cheney Stadium. It’s expected to be the final game of his rehab stint. He’ll likely join the Mariners in Minnesota on the Monday off day and be activated from the injured list Tuesday. Seattle will likely option a reliever to Tacoma to make room for Gordon.
Servais said Mike Leake will start Tuesday against the Twins and they might use an opener for Tommy Milone’s scheduled start Wednesday. The Mariners are deciding on whether to start Yusei Kikuchi on Thursday and give Marco Gonzales an extra day rest or start Gonzales and give Kikuchi the extra day.