Toronto Blue Jays: The Justin Smoak Show outshines Bronx Bombers

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Justin Smoak
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Justin Smoak /

The Toronto Blue Jays split their opening series against the New York Yankees, with Justin Smoak carrying the offensive load.

Prior to the opening series against the New York Yankees, the focus on winning or surviving would be based on the Toronto Blue Jays’ ability to outlast the big bats of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

Opening Day was a struggle with Stanton recording three hits and four RBI on a pair of home runs. Luckily, the Blue Jays’ pitching was able to make the necessary adjustments, resulting in Judge having a tough series and recording only three hits in total.

The opposite could be said of slugger Justin Smoak. In the first two games of the series, the 31-year-old only recorded one hit, a walk and four strikeouts. This was also against front-line starters in Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, who silenced the Blue Jays’ offence.

All that changed in the final two games, however, as the Smoak Show came through with a pair of home runs, eight RBI, a walk and only one strikeout.

As Sportsnet‘s Jeff Blair wrote in his postgame column, the decision to walk Josh Donaldson and load the bases for Smoak was a costly one for the Yankees. However, a couple of seasons ago that decision would have been a no-brainer.

After a breakout year for the former first-round (11th overall) pick in 2017, the Blue Jays were going to need a repeat performance from Smoak and possibly more. It is safe to say he has delivered so far.

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Not only does this take some of the burden off Donaldson, it provides the Blue Jays with an elite offensive weapon who can help them keep up with the lethal lineups in the AL East.

Granted it is only four games into the season, but it is encouraging to see a player like Smoak help his team outmuscle the Bronx Bombers and split a tough series. If he can keep this up, hopefully, it can have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the lineup.

As Thomas Hall explained in his most recent column, the Blue Jays made it a point to improve the depth in the lineup, especially in the event of injuries. At the same time, the team needs the big bats to stay healthy and remain productive.

One thing the offence will need to improve on is trying to get some production against the opposing teams’ starting pitching.

The Yankees got in trouble in the final two games of the season by pulling their starters early and while their bullpen is a strength, it was also their downfall. It cannot be the Blue Jays’ hope that opposing teams will regularly take out their starters earlier than expected. Instead, they have to force that decision on those managers.

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How big was the performance for Smoak in the final two games? Can he keep it up, or will opposing teams find a way to limit his production? Let us know in the comments below.