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Pinch-hit perfection: Smoak's slam wins it in 9th

Travis draws bases-loaded walk to set up game-winner
August 31, 2018

MIAMI -- Justin Smoak delivered a pinch-hit, two-out grand slam in the top of the ninth inning that capped a dramatic comeback win Friday night for the Blue Jays, who stunned the Marlins with a five-run ninth inning.The Blue Jays' 6-5 victory snapped a four-game losing streak and spoiled an

MIAMI -- Justin Smoak delivered a pinch-hit, two-out grand slam in the top of the ninth inning that capped a dramatic comeback win Friday night for the Blue Jays, who stunned the Marlins with a five-run ninth inning.
The Blue Jays' 6-5 victory snapped a four-game losing streak and spoiled an excellent pitching performance by Marlins starter Dan Straily, who appeared on his way to victory before the Blue Jays rocked the Marlins' bullpen in the ninth.
It's the first pinch-hit homer for Smoak, as well as his 22nd long ball this season and third career grand slam.
"It's awesome, man. In that situation -- down the whole game, three guys on in the ninth -- and to be able to come up big for your team is what it's all about," said Smoak, who also hit a grand slam on April 1 against the Yankees.
Smoak's game-winning homer came on a 2-2 pitch from Marlins reliever Drew Steckenrider, whom Smoak said he never had faced before Friday night.
"I'm just trying to battle up there with two strikes," Smoak said.
For a while on Friday night, it appeared that Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez might be locked into a pitchers' duel with Straily. It lasted only three innings, however.
Sanchez, making his second start since coming off the DL, held the Marlins hitless through the first three innings. That came to an abrupt end in the bottom of the fourth, when the Marlins scored three runs.
Sanchez exited the game after giving up two more runs in the fifth as the Marlins chased the right-hander, who tossed 82 pitches in his start. Sanchez allowed five runs on eight hits with three walks in 4 1/3 innings.

"It was a great team win for sure," Sanchez said. "As far as what I did, I thought it was a lot better than the last start. My curveball was good, fastball had some life. I could have thrown more strikes, could have gotten ahead more, but I definitely thought it was a step in the right direction."
"He's going to be fine. He just needs to pitch," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Sanchez. "It's basically been two lost years for the guy. No issues with his finger. I saw some good signs. He was popping the ball and threw some good changeups.
Brian Anderson's double to the wall in center field to lead off the Marlins' fourth was the first hit off Sanchez. Derek Dietrich and JT Riddle followed with RBI singles, and Austin Dean drove in the Marlins' third run with a fielder's choice groundout.
Anderson's second double of the game, followed by RBI singles by J.T. Realmuto and Starlin Castro, padded the Marlins' lead to 5-0 and forced Sanchez to exit.
The Blue Jays put their first run on the board in the sixth, when a sacrifice fly by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. scored Curtis Granderson from third.

Straily had his best outing of the season for Miami, allowing only one run on four hits in his eight-inning stint.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Blue Jays were down to their final out and trailing 5-1 when Devon Travis drew a bases-loaded walk to trim the Marlins' lead to 5-2 and set the stage for Smoak's dramatic grand slam.
"That was a heck of a walk by Travis there," Gibbons said.

HE SAID IT
"Just the way we drew it up." -- Gibbons, on Smoak's grand slam that capped the comeback
UP NEXT
Right-hander Marco Estrada is set to take the mound for the Blue Jays in the second game of a three-game series against the Marlins on Saturday at Marlins Park. There was some speculation that he might be held back because of a sore back, but Gibbons said on Friday that Estrada is fine and will be on the hill for the 7:10 p.m. ET start. The Marlins will counter with lefty Wei-Yin Chen.

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com based in Miami.