Smoak drives in three runs vs. Rays in potential final game as Blue Jay


TORONTO — Justin Smoak hit a pair of doubles and drove in three runs in what was likely his final game as a Blue Jay, and Toronto ended its season with a 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

Smoak, a pending free agent who’s spent the last five seasons in Toronto, doubled in Rowdy Tellez in the seventh inning for a 7-1 lead before being replaced by a pinch runner.

He was greeted with hugs from teammates and manager Charlie Montoyo at the dugout steps as he left the field.

Smoak’s first double of the game plated a pair in the first inning to give the Blue Jays a quick 2-0 lead.

Teoscar Hernandez hit a three-run homer and Breyvic Valera also went deep for Toronto (67-95).

Ji-Man Choi homered for the Rays (96-66) and Jesus Aguilar and Guillermo Heredia drove in a run apiece.

Clay Buchholz (2-5) pitched five solid innings, also likely in his final game in a Toronto uniform. The pending free agent veteran allowed one run and four hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

Blake Snell (6-8) allowed three hits and two runs with two walks and four strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings for Tampa. Snell was on a limited pitch count for the playoff-bound Rays, who will play Oakland in the AL wild-card game next week.

Smoak played 684 games with Toronto from 2015-19 and was part of the Blue Jays teams that reached the American League Championship Series in ’15 and ’16. He hit a career-high 38 home runs in 2017.

The 32-year-old was one of few veteran voices in a young Toronto clubhouse this season. The addition of so many new players meant reduced playing time for Smoak, especially over the final month of the season, as the team tested out future options at first base and DH.

Smoak received loud cheers from the crowd of 25,738 before each of his at-bats, and a thunderous standing ovation in his final plate appearance in the seventh.

Choi cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to 2-1 in the fourth, leading off with a solo shot to right field for his 19th homer of the season.

Hernandez followed a pair of base hits with a three-run shot, his 26th of the season, off Tampa’s Yonny Chirinos in the bottom of the inning to put Toronto up 5-1.

Hernandez, who was solid at the plate Sunday, also displayed some questionable defence in left field. He mistimed his jump at the wall on a fly ball in the first inning, then had a ball rocket under his glove as he slid to catch it in the fourth. Both plays resulted in doubles for the Rays.

Velera’s first home run of the season extended Toronto’s lead to 6-1 in the sixth inning. Smoak’s double made it 7-1 and Valera followed with an RBI double to pad the lead further.

Tampa scored twice in the eighth off Canadian reliever Jordan Romano. Aguilar grounded out to cash in one run and Heredia singled to bring in another.

Cavan Biggio hit a single in the first inning, stretching his Blue Jays rookie record on-base streak to 29 games.


Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press


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