Smoak, Donaldson lifts surging Jays past Rays
TORONTO — Josh Donaldson is hot right now. Justin Smoak has been hot nearly all season.
They form a dynamic duo with Smoak following Donaldson in the lineup.
It worked out for the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday when Donaldson hit two solo homers and Smoak hit a two-run blast in the eighth that ended a tie in the 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Josh is on fire,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “When he’s getting a pitch he likes, he’s not missing it. They’re being careful with him ... that’s why it’s so key Smoakie is hitting behind him.”
Smoak hit his 33rd homer of the season with one out against Tommy Hunter (2-4) after Donaldson walked. Smoak was 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
“That was a good one to hit out,” Hunter said. “I put him in a good position to hit and he did it. I left it up and he hit it.”
“J.D. (Donaldson) drew a walk there, a good at-bat, I was able to get a 2-0 heater over the plate and was able to do something with it,” Smoak said.
Dominic Leone (3-0) got the win after allowing three hits and the tying run in the eighth and Roberto Osuna pitched around a single in the ninth to earn his 32nd save.
The Blue Jays (59-62) won three games in the four-game series and hold a 9-7 lead in the season series over the Rays (60-63).
“We’re finding ways to lose tough ballgames right now,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re getting really, really strong pitching performances and we’re spoiling them.”
Rays right-hander Chris Archer allowed five hits and three runs while striking out 10 in seven innings.
“He was dominant tonight,” Cash said. “You take one batter (Donaldson) out of the lineup and he kind of had his way with some good hitters.”
Toronto starter Chris Rowley allowed four hits, five walks and two runs in five-plus innings. The right-hander struck out three in his second career major league start.
Donaldson hit a solo homer to open the scoring, his 10th first-inning home run of the season. It was his first career homer against Archer.
“I don’t know if you’re ever due against a guy like that, he’s got really good stuff,” Donaldson said.
The Blue Jays scored again in the third.
Darwin Barney reached first base on a wild pitch after striking out. Norichika Aoki singled, a drive deflected by Archer and Smoak hit an RBI single.
The Rays scored in the fourth when Adeiny Hechavarria walked and Mallex Smith tripled.
Donaldson hit his 20th homer of the season in the fifth. It was his 13th career multi-homer game and the third this season. He has six homers in his past five games and 11 in his past 19 games.
“I didn’t execute a couple of pitches and he took advantage,” Archer said. “We haven’t seen a hitter that hot in a while.”
Rowley was replaced by Aaron Loup in the sixth after a leadoff walk to Wilson Ramos.
Corey Dickerson and Hechavarria singled to load the bases and Danny Barnes replaced Loup.
Pinch hitter Trevor Plouffe popped out and Brad Miller’s groundout to first base forced Hechavarria at second as Ramos scored to cut the lead to 3-2.
Tim Mayza replaced Barnes with one out in the seventh and allowed a single by Logan Morrison before ending the inning with two strikeouts.
Leone allowed a run in the eighth on a one-out single by Peter Bourjos and a two-out double by Evan Longoria that tied the game 3-3. Duda was walked intentionally and Steven Souza Jr. singled to load the bases before Morrison grounded out to second.
“Guys are frustrated,” Longoria said. “You come in after the game and it’s quiet. Nobody is happy. The losses are definitely tough at this point of the year. We’re letting some games slip away.”
The Blue Jays completed a 7-3 homestand and are 10-5 in their past 15 games to keep their faint postseason hopes alive.
“It’s nice it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to come to the yard expecting to win,” Donaldson said. “And getting those breaks that are going our way and sometimes making our own breaks. With that being said, we feel OK where we’re at right now but we still have a lot of room to climb, a few teams ahead of us.”
NOTES: Rays RHP Chris Archer recorded career strikeout No. 1,000 against Blue Jays C Miguel Montero in the fourth inning Thursday. ... Blue Jays INF Ryan Goins (right forearm abrasion) played shortstop Thursday after leaving the game Wednesday in the sixth when he was out at second base as Rays SS Daniel Robertson stepped on his forearm. ... Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier (right hip fracture) was 0-for-3 with a walk as the DH Wednesday for Single-A Charlotte on a rehab assignment and could rejoin the Rays this weekend. ... Rays RHP Austin Pruitt (6-3, 5.07 ERA) will oppose Mariners RHP Erasmo Ramirez (4-4, 4.73) Friday to begin a three-game series against Seattle at Tropicana Field. ...Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (6-8, 3.63 ERA) faces Chicago Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (12-8, 3.79) Friday to open of a three-game series at Wrigley Field.