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Bullpen slips up as Yanks drop finale to Jays

MLB.com @BryanHoch

TORONTO -- One strike away from escaping from an eighth-inning jam, David Robertson had snapped off four consecutive curveballs and doubted his ability to survive a fifth. The Yankees' reliever decided to rear back for a fastball, and Justin Smoak was ready for it.

Smoak crushed Robertson's ninth pitch of the at-bat over the center-field wall for his second career grand slam, capping a six-RBI performance for the Blue Jays' switch-hitter and handing the Yankees a crushing 7-4 defeat on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

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TORONTO -- One strike away from escaping from an eighth-inning jam, David Robertson had snapped off four consecutive curveballs and doubted his ability to survive a fifth. The Yankees' reliever decided to rear back for a fastball, and Justin Smoak was ready for it.

Smoak crushed Robertson's ninth pitch of the at-bat over the center-field wall for his second career grand slam, capping a six-RBI performance for the Blue Jays' switch-hitter and handing the Yankees a crushing 7-4 defeat on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

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"I didn't think I could really throw him another curveball; he'd already seen too many then," Robertson said. "Those were probably the best I had at that time. He's a good hitter. I've gotten him out a lot in the past, but he got me today. It's frustrating. I was one pitch away and just didn't get it done."

Video: NYY@TOR: Smoak belts a go-ahead grand slam in 8th

The showdown created a second-guessing opportunity for manager Aaron Boone, who elected to intentionally walk Josh Donaldson with first base open in order to have Robertson pitch to the red-hot Smoak.

"He has really good stuff and I knew he was a guy I hadn't done well off of in the past," Smoak said. "I knew from the get-go that it was going to be a tough at-bat. You just go out there and try to give a good at-bat and I was able to get the big hit."

In Smoak's previous at-bat, he hit a two-run homer off Tommy Kahnle, but Smoak was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts lifetime against Robertson. Donaldson was 3-for-8 with two homers. Boone said that Robertson's breaking ball made the matchup against Smoak appealing.

"You've got to tip your cap there," Boone said. "Smoak worked a heck of an at-bat off him, fouled off some really tough pitches and then finally got one. He ends up having a huge day against us, obviously. I'm comfortable with the matchup. Didn't get it done today."

Starter Sonny Gray needed 89 pitches to toss four-plus innings of one-run ball, but Chad Green fired two scoreless innings before Kahnle and Robertson coughed up a three-run lead.

"I think everyone felt really good with where we were going into the later part of this game," Gray said. "It just didn't really work out for us today, but if I had to do it again tomorrow, we'd do the same thing. It's going to come out in our favor more times than not."

All of New York's scoring came in the third inning off Toronto starter Marcus Stroman. Didi Gregorius roped an RBI double, Neil Walker contributed a run-scoring single and Brandon Drury launched his first homer in a Yankees uniform, a two-run shot to left-center.

Video: NYY@TOR: Gregorius lines an RBI double to center

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Decision made: Despite the outcome, Boone said that he was comfortable with the process that the Yankees used to decide upon the Robertson-Smoak matchup. A replay showed that Boone signaled to Robertson during the inning, asking what the pitcher wanted to do. Robertson indicated that he preferred to face Smoak.

Video: NYY@TOR: Yankees discuss tough loss to Blue Jays

"His breaking ball, we feel like is a good matchup for Smoak there," Boone said. "To Smoak's credit, he spoiled some tough ones. Just got a piece of back to back and finally got a fastball that he took advantage of. But we liked the matchup -- as much as you can against a really good hitter."

Drury delivers: With two runs already in, Drury gave the Yankees some breathing room with his first homer in a Yankees uniform, which was estimated to travel 387 feet and left his bat at 101.4 mph according to Statcast™. In this series, New York's final four batters in the order were responsible for five extra-base hits and nine RBIs.

"At the time, it felt good to put some runs on the board there for Sonny. It's a tough loss, though," Drury said. More >

Video: NYY@TOR: Drury blasts a two-run homer to center

Motion denied: Aaron Judge notched his first outfield assist of the young season in the second inning, firing a one-hop strike to catcher Austin Romine to cut down Russell Martin attempting to score on Gift Ngoepe's single to right field. Judge had five outfield assists during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017.

"You've got to do something when you're not hitting," Judge said. "I was just trying to make a play for Sonny. He's working his butt off out there and I knew they might send him there to get a run on the board. When Stroman is pitching and you get a couple of runs on the board, he's pretty lethal. I just tried to make a good throw." More >

Video: Must C Cannon: Judge cuts down Martin at the plate

QUOTABLE
"It's going to be chilly, but I'm looking forward to it. It'll be good to be home and see our fans and feel the excitement they've got for this team. We play well at home and I'm just looking forward to that."
-- Judge, on Monday's Yankee Stadium home opener

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Yankees are 0-6-2 over their last eight series at Rogers Centre, having last won one in August 2015.

WHAT'S NEXT
Giancarlo Stanton will put on the pinstripes for his first Yankees home opener on Monday as the Yanks host the Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery gets the starting nod for the 116th home opener in franchise history. Tampa Bay has not announced its starting pitcher, as the Rays are experimenting with a regular "bullpen day."

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees