The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL

TORONTO — As Kevin Pil­lar rounded third, he had one thought on his mind as he ran to­ward his team­mates wait­ing at home plate: pro­tect his jer­sey.

Pil­lar had promised his mom, Wendy, and his wife, Amanda, that he’d take a Mother’s Day pic­ture with them af­ter Toronto’s 3-2 Amer­i­can League base­ball win over the Seat­tle Mariners on Sun­day and he wanted to have his jer­sey in good shape for the pho­toop. His two-out, line drive home run in the bot­tom of the ninth, how­ever, threat­ened the pris­tine con­di­tion of his jer­sey.

Af­ter touch­ing home plate, Pil­lar es­caped his rough­hous­ing team­mates and bolted for the dugout at Rogers Cen­tre. But third base­man Dar­win Bar­ney doused him and the jer­sey with Ga­torade in a postgame in­ter­view.

“I got one of the but­tons ripped but I wanted to keep it in as good a shape as pos­si­ble for the photo,” said Pil­lar. “It was a lit­tle or­ange but, those are mem­o­ries I’ll re­mem­ber for the rest of my life and we got the photo to com­mem­o­rate it.”

Pil­lar came to the plate with two outs and the game seem­ingly headed to ex­tra in­nings, but the AL’s hits leader brought the 42,030 in at­ten­dance to their feet with his first ca­reer walkoff home run. He’s also the first Toronto cen­tre­fielder to hit a walkoff since Ver­non Wells did it in July 2006.

Justin Smoak also hit a home run, a tworun shot in the sixth in­ning, for the Blue Jays (17-21), who have won five straight. Toronto’s four-game sweep of the Mariners was its first since the Blue Jays beat the Min­nesota Twins in four straight in Au­gust 2015.

“It’s a feel­ing you can’t de­scribe. It’s just pure joy. It’s the top of the moun­tain for a hit­ter,” said Pil­lar when asked what it feels like to hit a home run. “To be in the box, put a good swing on it and watch it go over the fence. Look at a guy like Justin Smoak, who’s not a real emo­tional guy, see what a home run does to him.”

Aaron Sanchez re­turned to start af­ter a stint on the 10-day dis­abled list and al­lowed one un­earned run, five hits and struck out four in five in­nings pitched. He was pulled af­ter 78 pitches in favour of Do­minic Leone.

Sanchez was out since May 1 with a split nail on the mid­dle fin­ger of his throw­ing hand. Blood ap­peared on Sanchez’s right thigh, around his belt, af­ter two in­nings — pre­sum­ably from his throw­ing hand. Leone was fol­lowed by Ryan Tepera, who earned the win af­ter work­ing 2 1/3 in­nings and strik­ing out two. Af­ter the game, Sanchez ac­knowl­edged that he had been bleed­ing but only wanted to speak about the game.

“I felt like if I went out there think­ing about (my in­jury), I was al­ready de­feated,” said Sanchez. “So I went out there to com­pete, at­tack, not even worry about what’s go­ing on with my fin­ger. Just go out there un­til I reached my pitch count.”

Ariel Mi­randa started for the Mariners and struck out eight over five in­nings of work, al­low­ing one earned run. Pil­lar’s 48th hit of the sea­son came off re­liever Ed­win Diaz, and dropped Seat­tle (17-21) to its fourth straight loss.

Smoak hit his homer in the sixth in­ning with a low line drive that just made it over the left-field wall. He drove in Jose Bautista to make it 2-1.

Dyson replied in the next in­ning with a solo shot off Leone to tie it 2-2 and set up Pil­lar’s hero­ics two in­nings later.


Blue Jays out­fielder Kevin Pil­lar, sec­ond from right, cel­e­brates his game-win­ning home run in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning Sun­day in Toronto. The vic­tory was Toronto’s fifth straight.

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