It's difficult to stand out in an Atlanta system that boasts some of the Minors' top talent, but what Jean Carlos Encarnacion has done in his first full season with Class A Rome should draw some attention. His excellent season reached a boiling point Wednesday night.
Atlanta's infield prospect registered his first five-hit game and fell a triple shy of the cycle as the Braves outlasted the Drive, 9-8, in the eighth inning of a twinbill opener at Fluor Field. Encarnacion matched a career high with four RBIs and scored twice. He took an 0-for-3 in the nightcap, but his .320 average sits at fifth-best in the South Atlantic League.
Video: Rome's Encarnacion gets fifth hit
The 20-year-old has hit safely in five consecutive games and is 13-for-22 (.591) over that span. The performance boosted his RBI total to 39, nearly twice as many as he had last year in only eight more games. His only other four-RBI effort came on July 26, 2017 when he fell a single shy of the cycle against Phillies 1 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, Encarnacion debuted stateside last year, hitting .350 with 14 extra base hits and 16 RBIs in the GCL before shifting to Rookie-level Danville for the final month of the season. The power numbers trailed off slightly in the Appalachian League with only one homer in 23 games, but he batted at a .290 clip to finish the year with a .321 cumulative average.
Gameday box score
In Wednesday's opener, Encarnacion knocked a single up the middle in the first inning and lined a double to left in the second before lifting a 2-2 offering from Greenville starter Hildemaro Requena over the fence in left-center for his fifth homer of the season.
He added another single to left in the sixth and gave his best effort to round out the cycle in the extra frame in the eighth. Following Riley Delgado's tiebreaking double to lead off the inning, Encarnacion drove a fly ball out to center for an extra-base hit, but he was thrown out trying to stretch the play into a triple.
Braves No. 28 prospect Drew Lugbauer singled twice and drove in a run and 17th-ranked William Contreras doubled twice on a three-hit night. Delgado doubled twice -- including the go-ahead knock in the eighth -- scoring three times and driving in a pair.
Things didn't turn out as well for Encarnacion in the nightcap, as he walked and struck out three times. The Braves, who needed only a win to clinch a first-half title, let a late lead slip for a 6-4 loss. Greenville scored three runs without an RBI hit to take the lead in the sixth.