Solarte's late homer gives Blue Jays 1st win of season
Toronto 3rd baseman puts home team ahead for good in 8th inning
Kevin Pillar had been thinking about stealing home since he saw video of a Pittsburgh Pirates prospect do it in a spring training game last week.
So when the speedy Toronto centre-fielder was met with the opportunity against the Yankees on Saturday, he took full advantage.
The thrilling move paid off as the Blue Jays topped New York 5-3 for their first win of the season.
"There was a guy who did it during a spring training game and me and [Curtis] Granderson were talking about how it's not done enough," Pillar said. "And obviously it's a huge gamble but sometimes when runs are tough to come by, especially early on in the year, you gotta go out there and make some stuff happen."
'It caught me off guard'
Newcomer Yangervis Solarte hit a the go-ahead solo homer to lead off the eighth inning — smashing a 97 mile-per-hour fastball from reliever Dellin Betances (0-1) into the centre-field seats — and Pillar followed with three steals to pad the lead before Roberto Osuna closed it out for his first save of the season.
Pillar's daring play was Toronto's first straight steal of home since Aaron Hill did it against the Yankees in 2007 and it sent the crowd of 37,692 at Rogers Centre into a frenzy.
It also surprised the Blue Jays manager.
"It caught me off guard," John Gibbons said. "You could see him coming off third base and it didn't look normal. I'm glad he did it. I'd love to take credit for it but I can't."
Justin Smoak, on the day of his bobblehead giveaway, hit a double and two singles and drove in a pair of runs for Toronto (1-2). Luke Maile had the other RBI.
Ryan Tepera (1-0) pitched the top of the eighth for the win. Marco Estrada started for the Blue Jays, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out two over seven innings.
Estrada, who was already in the clubhouse getting his post-game shoulder treatment when Pillar stole home, watched the play unfold on TV.
"You could hear it. It was that loud, even in here you could still hear the fans," the right-hander said. "It was awesome to watch. You could see him at third base jumping around and you're thinking: 'man, he might actually take this,' and he did."
Tyler Austin hit two homers and drove in all three runs for the Yankees (2-1). Starter CC Sabathia allowed two runs over five innings with five hits, two walks and four strikeouts.
Smoak gave the Blue Jays their first lead of the season, cashing in Josh Donaldson from second on a base hit to left field in the first inning. Donaldson had reached on a double to left for his first hit, snapping an 0 for 7 start to the year.
Yankees rookie Billy McKinney slammed hard into the outfield scoreboard trying to make the catch and left the game with a shoulder sprain.
Reliever Adam Warren became the second Yankee to leave the field with an injury after taking an Aledmys Diaz comebacker on the inside of his ankle in the sixth inning. Maile hit an RBI single off Warren's replacement, Jonathan Holder, to put the Jays ahead 3-2. The run was charged to Warren.
Austin hits pair of homers
Austin had tied the game an inning earlier, sending a first-pitch offering from Estrada into the second deck in centre field. The two-run shot was just the second hit allowed by Estrada and first since a first-inning double from Giancarlo Stanton.
Austin tied the game again in the seventh with his second homer, a solo shot to left.
"The first home run he hit a pretty good pitch so tip your hat and move on," Estrada said. "The second one I completely missed my spot. I was trying to go down and away, took a little off just to get back in the count and completely missed.
"Other than that and the walks those were the only frustrating moments for me but I felt pretty good out there."