Smoak and Morales go back-to-back in 9th, Jays beat A’s 3-2
TORONTO (AP) — Watching from the on deck circle as a wild Santiago Casilla issued a leadoff walk in the ninth inning, Justin Smoak figured he might get a fastball from the Oakland closer.
When the right one came, he didn’t miss it.
Smoak hit a game-tying two-run homer and Kendrys Morales followed with a game-winning blast as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied to beat the struggling Oakland Athletics 3-2 on Wednesday night.
The homers came on consecutive pitches from Casilla (2-5), who began the ninth by walking Josh Donaldson, with the final three pitches all missing up and in.
“He threw a lot of curveballs to Josh there and it felt like he really didn’t have much control of it,” Smoak said. “I went up there dead red, looking for the heater. Got to 2-0, dead red on it, got a good pitch to hit and was able to get it out there.”
Morales followed with a high blast into the right field bullpen and was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
Casilla suffered his sixth blown save in 22 chances.
“Two pretty good hitters and they got him in the air,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
It was the sixth time this season the Blue Jays have hit back-to-back home runs. Smoak and Morales have been involved in each of the past three occasions.
“I just try to stay aggressive whether or not he hits a homer,” Morales said. “Of course, it’s nice to see Smoakie do that. I just got a great pitch to hit today.
Joe Biagini (3-8) worked 2/3 of an inning for the win, Toronto’s third straight.
“Maybe it’s the beginning of a nice streak,” manager John Gibbons said. “We’ll see. Strange things happen in this game.”
Casilla’s meltdown spoiled a strong performance by Athletics rookie Paul Blackburn, who allowed two hits in seven shutout innings. It also kept Melvin stuck on 999 career wins.
“It’s too bad, he pitched great,” Melvin said of Blackburn.
Blackburn lowered his ERA through five starts to 2.25. He issued three walks, two of which were erased by double plays.
“I felt free with all my pitches, I didn’t feel like I was yanking anything or forcing something to my target,” Blackburn said.
Jose Bautista hit a leadoff double against Blackburn in the first but the right-hander didn’t allow another hit until Donaldson’s two-out double in the sixth. Smoak followed with a soft liner to shortstop.
The Athletics have lost 11 of 12 in Toronto. They have lost seven of nine overall.
Struggling Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada allowed two runs in five innings. Estrada is winless in 10 starts since a May 27 victory over Texas, posting an 8.87 ERA over his ugly stretch.
“I do feel like I took a step in the right direction,” Estrada said.
Estrada escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first when Ryon Healy fouled out. That was the first of eight straight outs, a streak that ended with Yonder Alonso’s double in the fourth. Estrada replied by striking out Healy and Matt Chapman.
After Matt Joyce drew a two-out walk in the fifth, Marcus Semien connected on a 3-1 pitch and launched it into the left field bullpen, his third home run of the season and second in four games.
BACK-TO-BACK FOR THE WIN
This was the second time in franchise history that the Blue Jays won a game with back-to-back homers. Cliff Johnson hit a tying shot and Buck Martinez followed with a pinch-hit winner off Detroit’s Willie Hernandez on June 14, 1986.
Seven of Smoak’s 28 homers have come in the ninth inning or later.
Oakland is 16-34 on the road, the worst mark in the AL.
Athletics: C Josh Phegley (left oblique) was scratched from the lineup and replaced by Bruce Maxwell. ... OF Jaycob Brugman, scratched Tuesday with a stiff neck, came on as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
Blue Jays: C Russell Martin got the day off but is expected to return for Thursday afternoon’s series finale.
Athletics: LHP Sean Manea (8-5, 3.82 ERA) is 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA in his past 12 starts. Manea pitched six innings for the win in his first career start against Toronto on June 5.
Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (9-5, 2.98 ERA) is winless in his past two outings despite allowing one earned run in 14 1/3 innings. Stroman has a 1.37 ERA in four July starts.
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