TORONTO -- The Blue Jays went into this season talking about how increased depth would allow them to contend in the American League East. For at least one day, Yangervis Solarte backed up those words with his bat.With Josh Donaldson limited to designated hitter duties because of a dead-arm issue,
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays went into this season talking about how increased depth would allow them to contend in the American League East. For at least one day, Yangervis Solarte backed up those words with his bat.
With Josh Donaldson limited to designated hitter duties because of a dead-arm issue, Solarte made his second consecutive start at third base and did not disappoint. The 30-year-old delivered the go-ahead homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to secure the Blue Jays' 5-3 victory over the Yankees on Saturday afternoon. Kevin Pillar subsequently singled, before stealing second, third and home to score a key insurance run in historic fashion.
Solarte connected on a 97-mph fastball from reliever Dellin Betances and sent it over the wall in right-center field for his first home run of the season. The solo shot gave Toronto its first victory of the season and the Blue Jays' first March win in franchise history. For Solarte, it was his first signature moment in a brand-new uniform after being acquired during the offseason.
"I'm really happy," Solarte said through an interpreter after the game. "Mostly when you're with a new team, the fans, making them feel like we're home. This is just a nice feeling and a nice moment for me."
First baseman Justin Smoak enjoyed a big day at the plate for Toronto by going 3-for-4 with a double and a pair of RBIs. Backup catcher Luke Maile chipped in with an RBI single, while the Blue Jays almost doubled their offensive output over the first two games of the year. The victory allowed Toronto to avoid starting the year 0-3 for the fourth time in club history.
Yankees No. 8 hitter Christopher Austin was responsible for almost all of the damage by New York's offense. Austin hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning and added a solo shot in the seventh for the first multi-homer game of his career.
Neither starting pitcher factored into the decision. Veteran lefty Carsten Sabathia was charged with two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and a pair of walks while striking out four over five innings. Marco Estrada pitched a little better by allowing three runs over seven innings, but he made a pair of major mistakes to Austin, which cost him a shot at the victory.
"The first home run he hit a pretty good pitch," Estrada said. "I was trying to go in and hit the glove, but it was right into his swing, I guess. The second one, I completely missed my spot. I was trying to go down and away. Took a little off to get back into the count and completely missed. But other than that, and the few walks I had, those were the only frustrating moments in the game for me. I felt pretty good out there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Catching them napping: After Solarte's homer in the eighth, Toronto put runners on the corners with two outs. With Mpho' Ngoepe at the plate, Maile took off for second and tried to force a throw by catcher Gary Sanchez. The Yankees did not take the bait, and instead Ngoepe's at-bat continued with runners on second and third. That's when Pillar decided to manufacture a run on his own by taking off for home on a 2-2 count. Betances stepped off the rubber in time, but his throw home sailed well wide of Sanchez. It was Toronto's first straight steal of home since Aaron Hill on May 29, 2007, vs. the Yankees.
"Obviously it's a huge gamble," Pillar conceded. "But sometimes when runs are tough to come by, especially early on in the year, you have to go out there and try to make some stuff happen. Fortunately for me, he threw it away. But I guess that's the element of surprise, and maybe panic sets in. It's just a play you don't see very often, so it's a play that maybe not everyone is prepared for." More >
The Maile man: Light-hitting Maile came through in a big way for the Blue Jays in the bottom of the sixth. After right-hander Adam Warren departed with a foot injury, Maile hit an RBI single to left off reliever Jonathan Holder as the Blue Jays jumped in front 3-2. Maile finished last season with seven RBIs in 46 games, but his first one in 2018 came in just his third at-bat of the year. The lead proved to be short-lived as Austin followed in the very next inning with his second home run of the day to tie the game at 3.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pillar became the first Blue Jays player in franchise history to steal three bases in the same inning. The last Major Leaguer to accomplish that feat was William Myers on Aug. 16, 2017. The three stolen bases also set a new career high for Pillar in a game.
Marcus Stroman will make his season debut when the Blue Jays wrap up their four-game series against the Yankees on Sunday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. Stroman was limited this spring because of a right shoulder issue, and his pitch count will have to be closely monitored, because he didn't have a lot of time to get stretched out.
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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.