Christian Encarnacion-Strand was out to a strong start after missing the first three plus weeks of the season. He entered the day 4-13 (.308) with a walk, strikeout, double, and a home run since joining the Louisville Bats after dealing with a herniated disc that led to him spending time on the injured list. Apparently that was just him getting warmed up. On Thursday afternoon he went off against Iowa pitching.
Facing a rehabbing Kyle Hendricks in the 1st inning, Encarnacion-Strand singled. The next inning, with Hendricks now out of the game, he would hit his second home run of the season – an opposite field blast that scored himself and Matt McLain. In the 4th inning he would strike out, but Encarnacion-Strand got his revenge in the 6th when he crushed a 3-run home run into left-center. It was his third homer in four games, and it gave him six runs batted in on the day. The next inning he capped off a 7-pitch at-bat with a double. His day would end in the 9th inning when he singled into left field, picking up his 5th hit of the day.
When the game was over his line through four games was .474/.524/1.053 with two doubles, three home runs, eight runs batted in, five runs scored, a walk, and two strikeouts in 21 plate appearances. That is certainly one way to start out a season.
Elly De La Cruz gets going
Like Encarnacion-Strand, Elly De La Cruz also missed the first three weeks of the season. He got on the field a few days earlier, joining the Bats on April 20th. The Reds top prospect, and according to some the top prospect in all of baseball, got out to a slow start. He went 1-18 with nine strikeouts in the first four games after coming back from a hamstring injury that he had suffered in spring training after being optioned to minor league camp in mid-March.
On Wednesday he picked up his first hit in four games, going 1-4 with a triple and a walk. On Thursday he joined in on the hit parade, going 4-6 on the day with a double and a triple. He flew out to the wall in the 1st inning on a change up from Kyle Hendricks. The next inning he doubled off of the wall at 104 MPH on a curveball from Hendricks. In his next at-bat he crushed a slider to a single. He picked up his third hit of the day on a change up, lining a single at 107 MPH off of the bat into right field. He capped off his barrage of hits with a triple on a sinker that came off of the bat at 105 MPH. According to MiLB, his home-to-third time was the fastest in minor league baseball this season and has only been topped twice this year in the big leagues.
TJ Hopkins extends his hit streak
Louisville’s got several players that are hitting well this season and TJ Hopkins has been among that group. He ended Thursday riding a 8-game hitting streak. While he didn’t have quite the same kind of game as several of his teammates did on the day, thanks may be in order to his teammates who did go off because he got the chance to extend his hitting streak. Hopkins entered the 9th inning 0-5. He came up with runners on the corners and two outs. The first pitch he saw was a 100.1 MPH fastball from Nick Burdi and he sent it into right field for a single that brought in a run to make it an 18-16 game. He’s now hitting .338/.402/.568 through 21 games this season.