Smoak homers, Jays get to Cy Young candidate Soroka early in win over Braves

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays pounced early on Canadian Cy Young candidate Mike Soroka, and Toronto opened a two-game interleague series with a 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.

Soroka, the 22-year-old right-hander who’s put himself in contention for both the NL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards with a stellar season, allowed three straight base hits to fellow rookies Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to open the bottom of the first inning.

Guerrero’s single scored Bichette for a quick 1-0 lead, and Toronto (54-80) tacked on another run when veteran Justin Smoak drove in Biggio with a base hit later in the inning.

Smoak added a solo homer in the seventh — his 20th of the season — as the Blue Jays downed the Braves (80-54), the top team in the NL East and the National League leader in road wins (41-27).

Ozzie Albies drove in a late run for Atlanta on a ground-rule double in the seventh. The Braves threatened from there with the bases loaded — Toronto reliever Derek Law intentionally walked Freddie Freeman to get to former Blue Jay Josh Donaldson — but Donaldson popped out to Bichette to end the frame.

Soroka (10-3) allowed eight hits along with the two runs, and struck out one batter to pick up his first road loss this season. He had come into the game with a 6-0 record and MLB-best 1.32 ERA in 13 road starts.

The Calgary native made five starts for the Braves in 2018 — including a forgettable one in Toronto last June when he allowed four runs over 4 2/3 innings — but a shoulder injury kept him on the sidelines for the rest of that season.

Tuesday’s game also marked the return of Donaldson to Rogers Centre after the former star third baseman was traded from Toronto to Cleveland last September.

The Blue Jays honoured the 2015 AL MVP with a video tribute before the game. The crowd of 24,578 showered Donaldson with a standing ovation during the tribute and again before his first at bat, with Donaldson acknowledging the crowd by tipping his batting helmet.

Donaldson went 0 for 4 on the night.

Wilmer Font opened the game for Toronto with two scoreless innings and Zack Godley (4-5) kept the Braves off the board for the next three frames. Atlanta’s run was charged to Canadian reliever Jordan Romano.

Ken Giles pitched the top of the ninth for his 17th save.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press