Donaldson homers as Blue Jays beat Rays 5-3
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Kevin Pillar chased a drive deep into the left-center gap and extended his arm above his head before leaping to make the catch and falling into the wall.
The high-scoring Toronto Blue Jays hit three home runs to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 on Monday night, but the center fielder's defensive gem - robbing Steve Pearce of an extra-base hit in the eighth inning - was the highlight of the game.
''Does it get any better than that? But I've seen it before,'' Toronto manager John Gibbons said. ''Nothing surprises me. He's that good. ... That's how you win games. Not only do you have to make plays but you have to take away hits.''
Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders and Josh Thole homered for the Blue Jays. R.A. Dickey (1-0) allowed three runs and six hits over five-plus innings, and Pillar's catch helped the bullpen prevent the Rays from rallying late.
''Right when I took my last step, I knew it was going to be a tough play, and I knew diving was out of the question; the wall was there,'' Pillar said. ''I think just athleticism and body awareness took over and I was able to tip my head just in time'' to avoid hitting the wall face-first.
''As soon as you have a moment of fear, you don't make a play like that,'' Pillar added. ''That's what I'm out there to do; I'm out there to make plays.''
All three of Toronto's home runs were hit off Drew Smyly, with Donaldson connecting for a solo shot in the fifth inning, Saunders delivering a two-run homer in the fourth and Thole going deep on a third-inning drive that umpires initially ruled a double after a fan interfered by catching the ball before it reached the stands.
The call was reversed after a replay review, erasing a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead.
Roberto Osuna, the fifth Blue Jays pitcher, worked a perfect ninth for his second save.
Smyly (0-1), limited to 12 starts a year ago when he spent much of the season on the disabled list due to left shoulder tendinitis, allowed five runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings.
''He just got beat up by the long ball,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
The left-hander walked one and struck out five.
''I can't let that happen, two home runs to two different lefties in the lineup,'' Smyly said. ''They have enough hard-hitting righties. I can't let those lefties beat me.''
Donaldson hit .297 with 41 homers and 123 RBIs in 2015. The reigning AL MVP helped the Blue Jays win 93 games and advance to the AL Championship Series in their first playoff appearance since 1993.
Troy Tulowitzki had a sacrifice fly after homering during the Blue Jays' 5-3 victory on opening day. Monday night's game drew a crowd of 15,116 to Tropicana Field, a little less than half of Sunday's announced sellout of 31,042.
Steven Souza Jr. homered for the Rays. Kevin Kiermaier had three hits and drove in a run.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (back) pitched in a minor league game in Dunedin, Florida, and remains on schedule to pitch Sunday's game in Toronto against Cleveland. ... Gibbons said Thole will work most of Dickey's starts because it will help regular catcher Russell Martin physically avoid the stress of handling knuckleballs.
The Blue Jays' lineup featured six straight right-handed hitters at the top of the order against Smyly. Gibbons finished it with three lefties, even though the manager acknowledged constructing the lineup that way figured to make it easier for the Rays to set up their bullpen ''with us going right-right-right.''
Rays ace Chris Archer is one four pitchers to strike out 12 or more batters on opening day and lose. He was the first do it since Bob Gibson fanned 12 for St. Louis against Montreal in 1975.
Blue Jays RHP Aaron Sanchez, who was 7-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 2015, starts Tuesday in the third game of the four-game series between AL East rivals. The Rays counter with RHP Jake Odorizzi, who was 9-9 with a 3.35 ERA last season.