Smoak making the most of his opportunities

Smoak making the most of his opportunities

NEW YORK -- Justin Smoak has been forced to deal with irregular playing time this season. But it hasn't impacted his ability to make timely contributions not only with his glove, but also his bat.

Smoak was at it again on Saturday afternoon, as he came through with the first grand slam of his career to propel the Blue Jays to a 6-0 victory over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Even more impressive was it happened to be the first grand slam Toronto ever hit in New York, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The four-run blast could not have come at a better time. Toronto and New York had been locked in a scoreless draw until Smoak stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. He took an aggressive approach, knowing there was nowhere for right-hander Ivan Nova to put him.

"No doubt, I was all in on it," Smoak said, after hitting his 10th home run of the season. "Yesterday, I saw nothing but curveballs and offspeed pitches -- and, in that situation, bases loaded, I knew they were going to it. I was all-in on it and was able to get one up and do something with it.

"The first pitch was a good one, it was down, I rolled over it -- and the one I got was a little more up, and honestly I was trying to hit a fly ball to the outfield. It happened to go over the fence."

Smoak has appeared in 88 games this season, but a lot of those have come as a late-inning, defensive replacement. He has 180 at-bats and that number isn't going to skyrocket any time soon, as the veteran continues to split time with Chris Colabello and occasionally Edwin Encarnacion at first base.

Toronto manager John Gibbons makes a lot of his decisions based on matchups. Smoak started the first two games at Yankee Stadium, partially because of that and also because the Blue Jays were hoping he could take advantage of the short porch in right field. That's exactly what happened.

"Smoaky is really having a great year for us -- especially in the limited time that he has played," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That was a huge hit there. Nova was really good today ... he was on. So it was another one of those games until Smoaky broke it open there. 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."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.