Smoak ‘slam’ sparks Blue Jays to victory

The Canadian Press
Gregory Strong

TORONTO–Justin Smoak felt like he let the team down in the first inning when he struck out with two men on and nobody out.
The Toronto slugger made up for it in a big way.
Smoak belted a two-run homer in the seventh inning, then launched a grand slam in the eighth to power the Blue Jays to a 7-4 win over the N.Y. Yankees yesterday afternoon.
The go-ahead blast came on the ninth pitch of a showdown with Yankees’ set-up man David Robertson (0-1).
Smoak was thrown four-straight breaking balls before he turned on a 93 m.p.h. fastball.
“He’s one of the best in the game so you know going into it it’s going to be a tough at-bat,” Smoak said.
“I just tried to battle and battle and battle.
“I was able to have that last good swing on it,” he noted.
The victory gave Toronto (2-2) a split of its season-opening four-game series at Rogers Centre.
Tyler Clippard (1-0) worked an inning of relief for the win while Seung Hwan Oh pitched the ninth for his first save.
Smoak, who tied a career high with six RBIs, had three of Toronto’s 12 hits.
“You can’t do any better than he did today,” said Jays’ manager John Gibbons.
“Especially with the game on the line, down a run and two outs against one of the top relievers in baseball.”
Jays’ starter Marcus Stroman was on a pitch count after being hampered by a right shoulder injury at spring training.
He laboured through a 21-pitch first inning–walking a pair–before escaping with back-to-back strikeouts.
In the bottom half, Yankees’ starter Sonny Gray walked Devon Travis, who moved to third on an infield single by Josh Donaldson.
Gray responding by fanning Smoak and the next two batters.
Stroman was in form until giving up a two-out walk and three-straight hits in the third inning.
Brandon Drury capped the four-run frame with a two-run homer.
“I think it was probably one of the worst sliders I’ve ever thrown in my life,” Stroman said.
“It just kind of casted out.”
It was Drury’s first home run as a Yankee.
Stroman allowed four earned runs over five innings. He gave up three hits, three walks, and had eight strikeouts.
Gray was pulled after giving up a lead-off single to Smoak in the fifth inning.
The right-hander allowed one earned run, seven hits, and three walks while striking out eight.
Donaldson walked in the seventh inning before Smoak hit his first homer of the season on a 1-0 pitch from Tommy Kahnle.
In the eighth, Martin led off with a single and moved to third on a one-out double by Aledmys Diaz.
Travis grounded out and Donaldson was intentionally walked before Smoak hit his second career grand slam.
“I threw everything I had at him,” Robertson said. “He just won today.”
Toronto will close out its seven-game homestand with a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox starting tonight.
Elsewhere in the AL, Minnesota blanked Baltimore 7-0, Boston edged Tampa Bay 2-1, Houston dumped Texas 8-2, L.A. downed Oakland 7-4, and Seattle topped Cleveland 5-4.
Chicago at Kansas City was postponed.
Over in the NL, Miami blanked Chicago 6-0, St. Louis beat the N.Y. Mets 5-1, Washington topped Cincinnati 6-5, and L.A. pounded San Francisco 9-0
Pittsburgh swept a doubleheader from Detroit 1-0 and 8-6 in interleague play.