Smoak show: Jays slugger hits pinch-hit grand slam for Jays comeback win

Smoak show: Jays slugger hits pinch-hit grand slam for Jays comeback win

MIAMI — On his long, slow return to health and potential dominance, the Blue Jays hope to see incremental improvement from starter Aaron Sanchez over the final month of the season.

Unfortunately, not much of that progression was on display Friday night as Sanchez struggled early against the Marlins, being chased after allowing five runs in 4.1 innings.

It was setting up as another dour night for the Jays until Justin Smoak stole the show with a grand slam in the top of the ninth to give his team a steal of a 6-5 win. It was Smoak’s 22nd homer of the year and came with two out as he came on as a pinch hitter.

The blast to deep centre field was the Jays first pinch-hit grand slam since 2005 and completed a five-run ninth for the dramatic victory. Ken Giles allowed two runners in the bottom of the ninth but shut the door earning the closer his seventh save with the Jays.

Sanchez, in just his second start since coming off the disabled list, was humming along through three hitless innings. Things unravelled in the fourth, however, when the young right-hander surrendered five of his eight hits and three runs to set the Marlins on their way.

The game itself — in which the Jays snapped a seven-game road losing streak — was secondary to what was happening around the baseball world. Prior to the first of three against the Marlins, Jays players were openly wondering what would become of third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The rumours that persisted during the day were confirmed late in the game, that the Bringer of Rain was dealt to the Cleveland Indians thus sending one of the team’s most popular players packing.

As for Sanchez, Jays manager John Gibbons maintained that results will be of only minimal concern as the team wobbles down the stretch of a second consecutive blowout season.

After missing most of 2017 with blister issues Sanchez had this campaign scuttled by hitting the DL on June 25 with a bruised finger on his throwing hand.

But Gibbons feels that if the American League ERA leader from 2016 can finish the current season strong,

“You want good results (for the remainder of the season) and you want his numbers to be good,” Gibbons said. “But what you really want is for him to be healthy and come through the last month. If he does that the numbers will be there.”


Of the many things the Blue Jays missed about Josh Donaldson in 2018, high on the list was his locker room presence.

The booming bat was matched by an extroverted personality that may have rubbed some players the wrong way but was rooted in a desire to win.

“He’s a really good teammate,” Smoak said. “Some other people might think differently but I fell that way because of the way he holds people accountable. He’s not scared to call people out or be called out.

“He’s definitely been missed. Same with (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.) Both guys had a presence because they’ve both been out there and done it. And it was a presence we didn’t have this year really.”


With the Indians acquisition of Donaldson, the American League playoffs just got a lot more interesting.

While the Red Sox remain the frontrunners, Cleveland has quietly been putting up a stellar season and is returning to health. And as everyone in baseball knows, a healthy Donaldson can be a force.

For his part, the Bringer of Rain believes he can be a factor in September and now October.

“I want to believe that but most of all I want to go out there and prove that,” Donaldson said. “I have to get on the field and stay to make that happen.

“But of course I believe it. I’m confident and I’m an athlete and I’ve had success at this level for a long time. I still believe that is in me.”


With September upon us the late-season call ups will begin. The Jays are expected to add a couple of arms on Saturday including prospect Sean Reid-Foley who is slated to start Sunday’s series finale against the Marlins … With nothing of consequence to play for on Friday, Gibbons went with his Miami infield as a treat for the crowd. Kendrys Morales, the native of Cuba who now has a house here, got the start at first while fellow Cuban Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was at shortstop. Aledmys Diaz (third) and Devon Travis (second) live in West Palm Beach … Lefty Jaime Garcia, recently released from the Jays after failing as the team’s fifth starter and being not much better in the bullpen, has been picked up by the Chicago Cubs … The Jays entered Friday’s game with a .333 win percentage against the Marlins (in just 27 games), their worst record against any opponent.

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