It took only one swing for Justin Smoak to make history, and it did not take much longer for him to learn what it meant. As he walked off the field, Smoak was told that he had hit the first grand slam by a Blue Jay in the Bronx.
In the franchise's 285th visit, someone finally hit one out with the bases loaded. "It's pretty cool, with all the teams and all the hitters who have come through Toronto," Smoak said Saturday after the Blue Jays' 6-0 win at Yankee Stadium, his new favorite place.
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Smoak is batting only .228 with 10 homers and often has been used as a pinch hitter or a defensive replacement at first base. But he pulled off something that Joe Carter, Jose Bautista, Carlos Delgado and George Bell never did. "It's remarkable, really," manager John Gibbons said, referring to the fact that no one had done it before.
Anyway, as far as the Blue Jays were concerned, it was more than a milestone. It was important. The game was a scoreless tie before Smoak came to bat against Ivan Nova in the sixth inning and took a rip at an 0-and-1 curveball.
Smoak said Nova's curveball had been sharp all day. "The one I got just happened to be up," he said. "It was just a matter of it being late in the game and he was probably around 100 pitches or so. You can't miss those."
Everything changed with that swing, including Smoak's career grand slam total, which rose to one.
He once was a big-time prospect for the Mariners out of the University of South Carolina. In fact, Saturday's winning pitcher, David Price of Vanderbilt, shouted during Smoak's media session: "SEC! SEC!" for the Southeastern Conference.
Blue Jays history now comprises 132 grand slams. This one had some carry, personally. "Smoaky has really had a great year for us, especially in the limited time he has played," Gibbons said. "That was a huge hit there. Nova was really good today. It was another one of those games until Smoaky broke it open. Even early in the season, when he wasn't playing much, he was big as a pinch hitter. He was very productive in that role."
The Blue Jays are deeper and better now, with power threats even in unexpected places. "We've got a really good baseball team, top to bottom, defensively, on the mound, one through nine in the lineup," Smoak said. "It's been a lot of fun. We've just got to keep it going."