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Encarnacion continues hot start in win over Seattle

Toronto Blue Jays base runners Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion (R) celebrate after scoring runs against the Seattle Mariners during the eighth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto April 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Cassese


As he rounded first base in the sixth inning, Edwin Encarnacion gave a fist pump

As he crossed home plate, Encarnacion then executed a satisfying hand clap signifying a job well done before he trotted into the dugout with a big smile on his face to receive more accolades from his Toronto Blue Jays teammates.

Encarnacion's home run trot has been a frequent occurrence through the first month of the season and for this the Blue Jays can only be grateful.

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With the likes of Jose Bautista still trying to locate his vanishing power swing, there's no telling what Toronto's record might be this season without Encarnacion stepping into the breach.

The reserved designated hitter was at it again on Sunday at Rogers Centre, powering a change-up that was delivered by Jason Vargas into the left field bleachers for a home run that helped propel the Blue Jays (12-10) to a 7-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners (11-12).

Encarnacion's homer snapped a 1-1 tie and was his third in as many games of the weekend series that Toronto won two games to one.

It was also his seventh of the season and helped raise his batting average to .310 on the year with 20 runs batted in.

Of Encarnacion's 27 hits this year, 15 have gone for extra bases.

"Edwin continues to play a major role, certainly an impact at the plate," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.

"I feel great, I feel 100 per cent," said Encarnacion, who credits a shortened swing and the ability to keep both hands on the barrel as he leverages through the strike zone as the reason behind his fast start.

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With all the damage Encarnacion dished out to the Mariners over the weekend, it looked somewhat suspect when he stepped into the batter's box for the first time after his home run, in the eighth inning, and was plunked in the upper left arm by a first-pitch fastball thrown by Vargas.

Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza issued official cease and desist orders to Vargas and both dugouts before play resumed.

Pumped up by the perceived indiscretion, the Blue Jays went on to load the bases for Brett Lawrie, who smoked the ball into the power alley in left centre for a double that scored two more runs and put Toronto in front 4-1.

The Blue Jays would score a total of five runs in the inning, including a solo home run shot by backup catcher Jeff Mathis, to break the game open.

Lawrie got plunked by a Seattle pitch in Friday's game, as did J.P. Arencibia, and the muscular third baseman said the bench took exception when Encarnacion jointed the hit -by-pitch parade on Sunday.

"Especially with the way he's been going, he's been swinging the bat," Lawrie said. "And then for a guy to kind of miss that bad at 95 (miles an hour), kind of up and in, kind of towards his head, kind of misses up like that, it can kind of raise a little bit of a red flag." Lawrie said.

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Farrell adeptly avoided stepping into any controversy when asked about the play. "We answered the right way," he said.

The outcome was a welcome relief for hard-luck Henderson Alvarez, the young flame-throwing Toronto pitcher who has performed well this season but entered Sunday's contest with an 0-2 record in four previous starts.

After surrendering a lead-off home run to Chone Figgins in the first inning, Alvarez settled down and worked a solid six-plus innings, allowing just the one run off six hits, to record his first win of the season.

Francisco Cordero came on in the ninth inning in a non-save situation, which was perhaps a good thing as he served up a leadoff home run to Miguel Olivo and then a double to John Jaso before retiring the next three batters.

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