TORONTO -- Thomas Pannone hasn't received the same level of attention as other pitching prospects such as Ryan Borucki and Sean Reid-Foley, but he still has a prime opportunity to make a name for himself before the year is out.
The 24-year-old emerged from the background once again to toss 6 1/3 strong innings in a 6-2 victory over Cleveland on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Pannone scattered four hits and three walks while striking out two and throwing 60 of his 93 pitches for strikes to put up his second quality start in three outings.
Justin Smoak went 2-for-4 with a home run and Teoscar Hernandez added a three-run shot in the eighth, but it was Toronto's No. 27 prospect per MLB Pipeline who stole the show. He kept the Indians off-balance for most of the afternoon by utilizing his curveball more often than he has in the past and continuing to make the most of an 88-mph fastball that he went to 62 times.
"The kid's ball explodes on you," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "There has to be some kind of deception. I thought he did a tremendous job again today."
Pannone picked up his first Major League win late last month after he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a start vs. Baltimore, but this outing had to feel almost as sweet because it came against his former team. Pannone was selected by Cleveland in the ninth round of the 2013 MLB Draft and remained with the organization until last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline when he was part of the Indians' trade for reliever Joe Smith.
The 24-year-old Pannone escaped a two-men-on-base situation in the first inning and kept Cleveland scoreless until the third when Francisco Lindor slugged his 34th home run of the season with a solo shot to left-center field. That was the only blemish until Pannone was brought back for the seventh inning and he served up a solo home run to Brandon Barnes. It marked the second time in three starts that Pannone pitched at least until the seventh and surrendered two or fewer runs.
Pannone went to his curveball 16 times compared to his previous start against Baltimore when he used it just seven times. There wasn't a specific game plan to use more offspeed pitches, but when it was effective early, it allowed catcher Reese McGuire to call it more frequently.
"I didn't have my best feel for it. Really my last four outings, I couldn't land it for a strike or get any velo on it to make it break," Pannone said of his curveball. "But I had a good feel for it today, and I used it for strikes. It was good."
Smoak added to his team high in home runs by hitting his 24th of the year with a two-run shot in the bottom of the first inning. The veteran slugger later added an RBI single off Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger to increase his RBI total to a team leading 74. The Blue Jays have an $8 million option on Smoak's contract for next season, which will almost assuredly be picked up after another strong year at the plate, which has included an .826 OPS.
With the win, Toronto secured its first season-series victory over Cleveland since 2015. The Blue Jays, who were officially eliminated from postseason contention when the Athletics picked up a victory on Saturday night, improved to 5-5 over their last 10 games and 10-9 over their last 19.
"Fastball, he tried to come in and it came back over the middle a little bit, and I was able to put a good swing on it and hit it pretty well," Smoak said of his home run. "They're a really good team, and Clevinger is a really good pitcher, so being able to get on the board early there might have calmed [Pannone] down just a hair."
Billy McKinney led off the eighth inning with a double and has now reached base in all 18 games since joining the Blue Jays. He's batting .354 (23-for-65) with six doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs with Toronto. The 18-game on-base streak is tied for the second longest all time to start a Blue Jays career. Dave Martinez remains in first place with a 20-game streak in 2000 while Roy Howell is tied with McKinney after he reached base in 18 consecutive games in 1977.
GRICHUK GOES DOWN
Randal Grichuk is day to day following a violent collision with an on-field security guard during the fourth inning. Grichuk was attempting to catch a foul ball down the right-field line when he was struck in the face by a metal stool that was being held by the security guard, who was trying to get out of the way. Toronto later announced that Grichuk's concussion tests came back negative.
"Oh man, both of us going after it hard right there," Smoak said. "I peeked at him and saw him sliding to try and make a play there, so I peeled out and then all of a sudden I heard him get clocked with the chair in the face. Scary right there for a second, but hopefully he's all right." More >
HE SAID IT
"He's a pretty boy, man. You don't want to hurt that face." -- Gibbons, on Grichuk's collision in right field
The Blue Jays will enjoy an off-day on Monday before opening a three-game series against the Red Sox on Tuesday night at Fenway Park with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 ET. Rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki (3-4, 4.39 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener while the Red Sox will counter with No. 1 starter Chris Sale (12-4, 1.97). Borucki has tossed a quality start in eight of his 13 outings this season.