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 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday and he wanted to have his jersey in good shape for the photo op. 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 home dugout at Rogers Centre. Still, third baseman Darwin Barney doused him and the jersey with Gatorade during a post-game TV 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 American League’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 centre-fielder to hit a walkoff since Vernon Wells did it in July 2006.
Justin Smoak also hit a home run, a two-run 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."
Manager John Gibbons hadn’t seen the blood himself but suggested that they may have been from hemorrhoids, before adding "Is he too young for that? I dunno."
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.
Steve Pearce hit a double to right field in the second inning but injured himself sliding to avoid the tag. The Blue Jays later announced he had tightness in his right calf and that he would have an MRI. He was replaced in left field by Ezequiel Carrera.
Jean Segura hit a double to shallow right field, pushing Carlos Ruiz to third. But Jose Bautista’s throw from the outfield was off, earning him an error and allowing Segura to advance and Ruiz to score for the Mariners in the fifth.
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.