The pitch from Daniel Bard in the second inning came in tight to the body of Edwin Encarnacion and struck the popular designated hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays flush on the back of the right hand near the knuckles.
Encarnacion did a pirouette out of the batter’s box in extreme discomfort and finally came to a stop near the front of the Blue Jays dugout where he took a seat on the artificial turf so he could be attended to.
As the bases were loaded at the time, Encarnacion’s pain was eased somewhat with the run batted in – but his troubles might only just be starting.
The man who has supplanted Jose Bautista as Toronto’s home run leader so far this season with 17 had to come out of the game in the bottom of the fifth in what proved to be a 5-1 Blue Jays victory, the pain having returned.
X-rays and a CAT scan at the stadium was “inconclusive” according to manager John Farrell, which is never a good sign. So Encarnacion was sent to hospital for additional testing.
Should that reveal any broken bones, Toronto’s DH would be sidelined for an indefinite period and Vladimir Guerrero’s conditioning stint in Triple-A could be a lot more short-lived than originally forecast.
Incensed that Encarnacion was plunked by Bard, many of the robust gathering of 41,925 at Rogers Centre on Sunday started chanting, “Throw him out.”
In this case, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was only too willing to oblige as Bard’s continued waywardness had put his team in an untenable hole, and Franklin Morales was summoned from the bullpen.
The score after two innings was already 5-0 for the Blue Jays (28-26), more than enough of a cushion for the rapidly improving Drew Hutchison (5-2) to parlay into his fourth victory in his last five starts for Toronto.
“Hutch continues to mature right in front or our eyes,” Farrell said of his 21-year-old, who allowed one Boston run off just five hits while striking out five over seven innings.
With the win, the Blue Jays managed to salvage a win in the finale of a three-game set against their American League East Division rival. Both teams now sport identical 28-26 records, tied for last place in the tightly packed standing.
Bard was all over the map in his start, except for the one spot that mattered – the plate.
He began the contest issuing back-to-back walks to Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar to set things up for Jose Bautista, who ripped his 14th home run of the season, a line drive shot to left field, that quickly put the Jays up 3-0.
In the second inning, Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia each worked a walk before Escobar was struck on the right hand on what was his bobblehead giveaway day at the stadium.
That loaded the bases for Bautista, who drew a walk to put the Jays ahead 4-0 before Encarnacion was nailed and brought in another run.
Bard was lifted with an unorthodox line of 1 2/3 innings pitched, allowing five runs off one hit with six walks and two hit batters.
The Blue Jays didn’t think Bard was intentionally trying to square them up with pitches but the game turned a bit tense in the sixth inning when Hutchison drilled Boston’s Kevin Youkilis in the shoulder.
This came after Hutchison hit Kelly Shoppach in the shoulder in the third.
Youkilis, who refused to talk to reporters after the game, was clearly upset and Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia immediately took up a peace-keeping position between the Red Sox player and Hutchison, who remained on the mound.
“He was clearly upset, “ Hutchison said. “Nobody likes getting hit. It is what it is, there was no intent behind it.”
In the eighth, when Darren Oliver came into the game in relief for Toronto, Youkilis had to duck to avoid a head-high throw before grounding out to first.
Stay tuned, these teams still have 12 games left to play against each other before the season is over.