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Blue Jays win fifth straight after Pillar’s walkoff homer against Mariners

Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar celebrates his game-winning home run against the Seattle Mariners on May 14, 2017.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Kevin Pillar was doing the sidestep and was about halfway to first base when he finally relinquished the grip on his bat after realizing neither he nor the Toronto Blue Jays would be needing it again on Sunday.

He completed his jubilant home-run scamper around the bases and touched down at home plate into the awaiting arms of his elated teammates, but quickly broke free from the frenzy in order to protect his uniform.

It was Mother's Day, after all, and Pillar wanted to look good for his coming photo opp.

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He well knows the damage that testosterone-charged teammates can inflict on a uniform after witnessing the threads get torn off the back of Ryan Goins following his walk-off single on Wednesday against Cleveland.

"I wanted to keep my jersey on because I told my mom we'd get a picture after the game," Pillar explained after his walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Blue Jays to a 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre.

"I saw what happened to Go-Go [Goins] the other day," Pillar continued. "His jersey's not even recognizable any more."

And neither are these Blue Jays, the recent sad sacks of baseball, who are making others take notice of their success.

The Blue Jays, 17-21, swept four games from the Mariners to extend their winning streak to a season-best five in a row. The team has won three successive series.

And with a four-game home-and-home set coming up against the Atlanta Braves, the team with the second-worst record in the majors, the Blue Jays' immediate future appears rosy.

"I tell you what, he's having some kind of year," Toronto manager John Gibbons said about Pillar, always a tremendous defender who is starting to turn into a top-flight hitter since sliding into the leadoff spot two weeks into the season.

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Pillar entered Sunday's game leading the American League in hits. His winning jack, his fifth home run, was his 48th hit of the season. He is hitting .314 through 38 games.

"Sometimes when things are going good, you just can't stop it," Gibbons said.

Pillar also made an exhilarating grab in deep centre field on a line drive by Danny Valencia in the fourth inning with Nelson Cruz stationed at second base. That play came during what was still a runless game and likely prevented a run.

The Blue Jays also celebrated the return of pitcher Aaron Sanchez.

The AL's earned-run champion from a year ago has been assailed this season by problems to his right throwing hand, including a broken fingernail that landed him on the disabled list for a second time at the beginning of the month.

Sanchez started Sunday, with a limited pitch count, and looked solid in his first outing since April 30, holding the Mariners to just one run and five hits in five innings.

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Sanchez was yanked after 78 pitches and the Mariners leading 1-0.

"It was good, nice to finally get back out there," Sanchez said. "It's been a long time coming."

There was still some blood spurting from the wound but it didn't seem to be an issue with either the team or Sanchez, who didn't really want to talk about the injury.

"I mean, yeah," he said, when asked if the finger was bleeding while he was on the mound. "But can't we keep this about the game?"

It wasn't all good news for the Blue Jays, who may have lost another player with an injury.

Left fielder Steve Pearce hurt his right calf muscle in the second inning legging out a double and hobbled off the field, not to return. Gibbons said he does not know how serious the injury is and that Pearce would be getting an MRI.

The Mariners moved in front 1-0 in the fifth when Carlos Ruiz scored on a throwing error by Jose Bautista in right field.

Justin Smoak powdered his seventh home run in the sixth, a two-run shot off Seattle reliever James Pazos, to provide the Blue Jays with a 2-1 lead.

But the usually power-shy Jarrod Dyson responded in kind in the top of the seventh, lacing his first home run of the season to right off Toronto reliever Dominic Leone to tie the game and help set the stage for Pillar.

Pillar's homer came off Seattle pitcher Edwin Diaz, who took the loss. Toronto reliever Ryan Tepera, 3-1, got the win.

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