TORONTO â€” Edwin Encarnacion felt the love before the game. Kevin Pillar had everyone talking after it.
Pillar added to his growing list of all-world defensive plays with an eye-popping diving catch in deep centre field on Monday night. The play likely saved a couple of runs and the Blue Jays went on to spoil Encarnacion’s return to Toronto in a 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Ryan Goins hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays and starter Marcus Stroman threw six shutout innings as Toronto (12-20) won for the third time in four games.
Pillar provided one of the highlights of the young baseball season by fully extending his frame at the warning track to snare a drive from Jose Ramirez.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen him make,” Goins said. “Maybe even better than the one where he climbed the wall.
“He was going full speed, straight back and made an unbelievable play.”
Several Blue Jays extended their arms in the air when they realized Pillar came down with the ball. The Rogers Centre crowd of 40,014 let out a roar and Pillar was swarmed by appreciative teammates after jogging back to the dugout.
“Give that guy a Gold Glove,” Stroman said. “I think he’s the best defensive centre-fielder in the game and I’m just glad that he’s out there behind me each and every day.”
Goins went deep in the second inning off Trevor Bauer (2-4) for his third homer of the year. Justin Smoak added a two-run single in the third.
The Indians (17-14) scored twice in the eighth inning. Toronto closer Roberto Osuna worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save.
Pillar was sporting a Superman toque as he spoke to reporters after the game.
“I just went out there to make a play,” he said. “We’re playing shorthanded right now and wins are tough to come by. We’re just trying to go out there and play hard.”
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said it was a play to remember.
“It was one of the best plays I’ve seen in a long time, probably ever,” he said. “He’s one of the best out there. They call him Superman for a reason.”
Encarnacion, meanwhile, had two hits in his first game back in Toronto since signing with Cleveland in the off-season.
He received a standing ovation after a pre-game video montage played and fans rose again when he came to the plate in the second inning. Encarnacion blossomed into one of the top sluggers in baseball during his seven-plus seasons with the Blue Jays.
“It was weird seeing him on the other side,” Stroman said. “After seeing how much he did for this team and this country, how many historic home runs he hit. I loved Eddie, I learned a lot from Eddie while he was here.
“He was a big role model and teacher for me.”
Both starting pitchers worked six innings and gave up six hits. Stroman (3-2) walked a pair and had a strikeout while Bauer allowed four earned runs, struck out six and issued three walks.
In the eighth, Lindor hit an RBI single before getting caught in a rundown, allowing a second run to come across on the fielder’s choice. Lindor was eventually tagged but Toronto second baseman Devon Travis was called for obstruction, bringing Gibbons out of the dugout.
Lindor was awarded second base and crew chief Tom Hallion tossed Gibbons for arguing. It was the third ejection of the season for the Blue Jays skipper.
Gibbons said he was told Travis hindered Lindor’s progress.
“OK that might be the rule, but I’ve been around a while and I’ve never seen (the call made) without some kind of contact,” Gibbons said. “That was my argument. That and his smug smile.”
Toronto reliever Danny Barnes worked the seventh inning and pitched to two batters in the eighth before Joe Smith came on to get out of the jam.
Osuna needed only nine pitches to retire the side in the ninth. The game took two hours 55 minutes to play.
Notes: Encarnacion tipped his cap and tapped his heart with his hand after the video montage played. … Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left shoulder injury. Catcher Mike Ohlman had his contract selected from triple-A Buffalo. … After an impressive performance in his first career start last Sunday, Joe Biagini will get the nod again Friday against Seattle. He threw 52 pitches and did not allow an earned run over four innings against Tampa Bay. Gibbons said Biagini will likely have his pitch count rise by 20-25 pitches against the Mariners. … The Blue Jays were expected to activate right-hander Mike Bolsinger from the Bisons for Tuesday’s start against the Indians. The Blue Jays also designated right-hander Casey Lawrence for assignment.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press