Slow starts are common, even for the best hitters in the game. So after an 0-for-4 performance on May 5 dropped Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion's batting average to .228 while his homer total remained at two, it was still way too early to be concerned.
Digging himself out of the hole and getting himself back on pace to match the 36 homers he hit in 2013 would be a challenge, though. It would probably take a few months, but it was at least a possibility for a guy who has been one of the best power hitters in baseball since the second half of the 2011 season.
After all, Encarnacion hit 20 homers between May 8 and July 29 last season. If he could repeat that feat this season, he'd be in a good position to surpass the 30-homer mark once again.
It turns out, however, that he wasn't interested in waiting quite that long to get back on track.
Over his past 23 games, the 31-year-old is hitting .322 (29-for-90) with 16 home runs and 31 RBI, putting him on pace to shatter his career highs of 42 homers and 110 RBI from two seasons ago.
Encarnacion isn't getting cheated, either, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
Encarnacion's 16 May HRs have traveled 6,639 feet. That's 1.26 miles pic.twitter.com/E7z3FLkIRt— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 30, 2014
With two homers on Thursday, he tied Albert Belle and Harmon Killebrew for most multi-homer games in a month with five. He also surpassed Jose Bautista's team record of 14 homers in any month.
His 16 homers this month puts him in a tie with Mickey Mantle for most homers in the month of May by an American League player—Mantle finished that 1956 season with 52 homers—and leaves him one homer shy of Barry Bonds' MLB record for home runs in May, which the latter set in 2001 en route to setting the single-season home-run record.
And Encarnacion still has two home games left to make history.
Per Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com, these incredible numbers have Blue Jays manager John Gibbons calling him one of the elite hitters in the league. "I don't know what to tell you other than it's pretty amazing," Gibbons said. "He's a special guy, he's really locked in now. He's one of the elite hitters in Major League Baseball. He's really come into his own the last few years."
He'll face off against Kansas City Royals lefty Jason Vargas on Friday—Encarnacion is 5-for-18 with two homers against him lifetime. He will then face a yet-to-be-determined Royals pitcher on Saturday, who will be much less talented than hard-throwing right-hander Yordano Ventura, who is being scratched from the start because of an elbow ailment.
Encarnacion's power surge has made a huge impact on a Blue Jays team that came into the month with a disappointing 12-15 record, but has now taken over the top spot in the AL East with 20 wins in 28 games in May.
Blue Jays fans, who booed Encarnacion on occasion during his first couple of seasons with the team, now revere him.
"It's a great feeling now compared to where I was before, at the beginning here," Encarnacion said, per Chisholm. "That's why you have to keep working hard, keep doing your routine so good things can happen. That's why I keep my head up, keep working and you'll see what's happened right now."
The home-run barrage also makes a positive impact on Major League Baseball as a whole because of the excitement that chasing after all-time records can emit and the joy that towering homers can bring to baseball fans everywhere.