Edwin Encarnacion joins the 40-homer club

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For the third straight season the Blue Jays have a 40-homer hitter, as Edwin Encarnacion went deep last night for the 40th time after Jose Bautista reached that mark in both 2010 and 2011.

Encarnacion has always had a ton of offensive upside, especially in terms of power potential, so much so that the Reds and Blue Jays lived with his mostly awful defense for seven years waiting for him to have a breakout season. And yet prior to this year he was a lifetime .260 hitter with a .789 OPS and career-high of 26 homers in 2008.

Now he has 40 homers in 138 games, along with a .279 batting average and .946 OPS that ranks third in the American League. And his defense is no longer an issue, because Toronto has used Encarnacion at first base and designated hitter.

Josh Hamilton leads baseball with 41 homers this season and at least a few other hitters from a group that includes Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, and Giancarlo Stanton figure to crack 40 homers by the end of the season. For now, though, Encarnacion is just the fifth right-handed hitter to reach 40 homers during the past six seasons, joining Bautista (twice), Albert Pujols (twice), Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Reynolds.

Mariners sweep A’s in two-game Japan Series

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The big news, of course, is Ichiro’s retirement. But there was a baseball game that counted today as well and the Mariners took it. Seattle beat Oakland 5-4 in 12 innings to sweep the two-game Japan Series.

Ichiro may have taken an 0-for-4 in his last game, but Ryon Healy and Mitch Haniger homered for the Mariners, staking Seattle to a 3-0 lead after three. The A’s picked up two in the fifth and Seattle added one via a Jay Bruce sac fly to make it 4-2 in the seventh. Oakland tied things back up, ultimately sending it to extras when Khris Davis singled in Matt Chapman in the seventh. Davis would blow a chance to put Oakland ahead in the 11th when he struck out with the bases loaded.

In the twelfth, Domingo Santana, who hit a grand slam in Seattle’s win in the opener on Wednesday, beat out a would-be double-play with the bases loaded to drive in the go-ahead and, ultimately, winning run.

The rebuilding Mariners are now 2-0 on the young year. The A’s, who won 97 games last year, are 0-2. Viva the smallest of sample sizes.