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Blue Jays getting back to quick-strike ways

MLB.com

TORONTO -- With their heavyweight lineup almost fully back intact, the Blue Jays are back to relying on landing the haymaker.

After going 0-for-24 with runners in scoring position in their four-game series against the Yankees, those well-timed blows were the only way Toronto managed to pull off a series split with Sunday's 3-2 win at Rogers Centre.

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TORONTO -- With their heavyweight lineup almost fully back intact, the Blue Jays are back to relying on landing the haymaker.

After going 0-for-24 with runners in scoring position in their four-game series against the Yankees, those well-timed blows were the only way Toronto managed to pull off a series split with Sunday's 3-2 win at Rogers Centre.

View Full Game Coverage

"We're starting to hit home runs," said manager John Gibbons. "We did that again today and they accounted for all three runs there, so that's a good sign."

Of Toronto's 12 runs in the series, the only three not to cross on home runs came via a wild pitch and two sacrifice flies. An offensive approach centered around home runs may not be the most consistent attack. But when it works, the past two seasons have shown it can be very effective.

Toronto broke out with 49 home runs in the month of May and now has seven through its first four games of June -- leaning on many of the same pieces that led Major League Baseball in homers two years ago and ranked fourth in 2016. Josh Donaldson's game-winning shot on Sunday was set up by Justin Smoak's two-run homer in the sixth, his second-longest of the season at 429 feet.

Video: NYY@TOR: Donaldson belts a go-ahead homer in the 8th

"My second at-bat, [Luis Severino] threw me a lot of sliders and changeups," Smoak said. "Honestly, everything is pretty hard -- so I was looking for something hard and he kind of hung the slider there."

As Smoak has unexpectedly carried the lineup's power production at times through the first two months, his work hasn't gone unnoticed by Donaldson.

"He's not up there waiting around", Donaldson said of Smoak's recent surge on Friday. "This year, he's really put it together nicely -- going from both sides of the plate -- and those guys are kind of invaluable to your lineup structure. It makes it difficult for the [opposing] manager to come and bring matchups. To have Kendrys Morales and to have Smoak, who are both power guys and both switch-hitters, it makes it difficult for the other team to plan [its] attack."

Smoak's home runs have been particularly timely, and the value of his performance has been magnified throughout the absences of Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki. The 30-year-old has always had excellent raw power, but it's never shown itself this consistently at the Major League level.

"It's not just here and there," Donaldson said. "Every day you're expecting something out of him and he's coming through."

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak