What does six RBI in two innings – capped off so dramatically with a game-winning grand slam – get Justin Smoak.
Besides the likelihood that there won’t be many managers intentionally walking the Jays batter ahead of him, it earned him the Jays first baseman American League player of the week honours.
Smoak, of course, was a big reason the Jays earned a 2-2 series split with the Yankees. His six RBI in Sunday’s 7-4 win stole the show, but Smoak hit.467 in the four-game series with eight RBI in total.
His grand slam off of Yankees reliever David Robertson was an at-bat of beauty, a nine-pitch battle in which Smoak re-affirmed he maturity he has developed at the plate.
After fighting through four consecutive fastballs, Smoak finally got the fastball that he wanted and sent it into the seats in the deepest part of the Rogers Centre.
While the blast burned the Yankees, his teammates were in awe of it, including reliever John Axford who was watching from the Jays clubhouse.
“Seeing those adjustments and his ability to fight off some incredible breaking balls, that’s something that’s definitely stood out to me,” Axford said. “His ability to put power into something when guys are throwing good pitches to be able to fight deep into those counts is incredible.
“From a pitcher’s standpoint, it’s frustrating. From a teammate’s standpoint, that’s awesome. It was great to see.”
The most encouraging news is that Smoak remains committed to the discipline that was such a big help in his breakthrough 2017 season.
“I think that’s what really a big part of what helped turn him around last year,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Now he’s a totally different guy. He’s conscious of what they are trying to do now because he can hurt them.
“He used to free swing it a little more up there and swing at a lot of pitches.”
Granted it’s based on just four games, but it’s a nice honour for Smoak. And consider this: He became the first Jays player to win AL player of the week since Donaldson did so in June, 2016.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone took some heat for issuing the free pass to Josh Donaldson to get to Smoak. Boone defended the move, citing Donaldson’s 3-for-8 with a pair of homers lifetime mark vs. Smoak’s 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
We’re guessing that few of Boone’s contemporaries won’t make the same mistake.
He’s alive. And so apparently is Josh Donaldson’s arm.
Gibbons said that the MVP third baseman is likely to return to his defensive spot for Tuesday’s second of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
“There’s a good chance he’ll be out there (on Tuesday),” Gibbons said. “I saw him throw (on Sunday) and everything looked normal to me.”
Donaldson struggled with four throws in the season opener on Thursday and after the team said he was suffering from “dead arm” shifted to DH for each of the Jays four games since, including Monday’s contest against the Sox.
Donaldson threw extensively after Sunday’s game at the Rogers Centre and was fielding grounders again on Monday.
Meanwhile, general manager Ross Atkins reported that on Monday shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had successful surgery in Vail, Colo. to address the bone spurs on both of his heels. If all goes well, Tulowitzki could return to the lineup in eight weeks.
AROUND THE BASES
Gibbons believes the upside of Donaldson’s injury is getting Yangervis Solarte some action at third. “If we can keep him out there regularly I think he can have a big year,” Gibbons said of the switch-hitting Solarte. “He can hit from both sides of the plate and he’s energetic. He livens up the team, I know that.” … Smoak’s six RBI performance matched a career high, the previous effort coming in Texas in 2012 … Monday’s starter Jaime Garcia made his first Jays appearance and did so against one of just four teams he hasn’t faced in his major league career.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies