By Jeffrey Flanagan and Gregor Chisholm
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays scored an early advantage in the rematch of last year's American League Championship Series, and Aaron Sanchez was the main reason.
Toronto took the first game between these two teams since last October, 6-2, after Sanchez tossed eight dominant innings on Monday night and the offense rallied for five runs in the bottom of the seventh. Sanchez didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and struck out three in his 14th quality start of the season, which is tied for the most in the Majors.
The Blue Jays' lineup was held in check for most of the game by Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez. The score was tied at 1 going to the bottom of the seventh, when Toronto plated five runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batsman to take control of the game.
"It's just starting to come together for him, and I think he's going to get even better and better," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Sanchez, who improved to 9-1. "His curveball is going to get better. His changeup -- he doesn't throw it as much now -- I think that will be a good weapon for him. Once again, another good outing for him.
"Volquez was really good on the other side. … He was great, too. It was just one of those games where we took advantage."
Added Volquez: "I got comfortable, a little bit comfortable, on the mound after the first inning. I settled down myself and made a lot of good pitches from the second to the sixth. It wasn't good the seventh.
"It's a pretty good lineup over there. You cannot make a lot of mistakes with them. They make you pay for it. I did in the seventh inning."
Kansas City recorded only three hits off Sanchez. Cheslor Cuthbert singled in the fifth, Kendrys Morales homered in the seventh and Jarrod Dyson singled in the eighth. With the exception of homers by Morales and Eric Hosmer, who hit his 13th home run in the ninth inning, no Royals baserunner advanced beyond first base.
Volquez deserved a better fate, but the lack of run support caught up to him after he left in the seventh with no outs and the bases loaded. The veteran starter was charged with four runs on four hits and three walks while striking out five. It was his second loss in his last three starts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Barney breaks it open: With Toronto and Kansas City locked in a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs on a walk, a single and a hit batsman. That chased Volquez from the game, and after a Devon Travis bases-loaded walk put Toronto in front for good, Darwin Barney delivered the big blow with a two-run single to center. Two batters later, Josh Donaldson added a two-run single of his own as the Blue Jays broke the game wide open with a five-run lead.
"I think that at-bat by Dev really set my at-bat up," Barney said. "I knew he was going to try to attack the zone, I knew he was going to go to his offspeed pitch because he didn't give in to Devon in that situation. What an at-bat Dev put up, to relieve some pressure off me in that situation. Even if I hit into a double play there, we tack on another run, so that was big."
That's No. 70: Royals left fielder Alex Gordon saved a run in the fourth inning when he got Edwin Encarnacion at the plate with a fantastic throw from deep left field. Encarnacion was trying to score from second on Kevin Pillar's single. Gordon threw a one-hop strike to catcher Salvador Perez, who applied the tag on Encarnacion's shoulder to end the frame. That was outfield assist No. 70 for Gordon's career. Statcast™ estimated that the throw traveled 250 feet and left Gordon's hand at a velocity of 92.8 mph.
"Hey, put me on the bump," Gordon joked when told how hard he threw it. "I just tried to make a good throw. Salvy made a great play. I didn't realize it until I got to the dugout and saw it again that he had to pick it because I short-hopped him."
Added manager Ned Yost: "He came up firing. It was a fantastic throw." More >
Walk this way:Ezequiel Carrera and Donaldson led off the first inning for Toronto with back-to-back walks. Carrera advanced to third on a fielder's choice by Encarnacion and then came around to score on a grounder off the bat of Michael Saunders. That gave Toronto an early 1-0 lead despite the fact that the Blue Jays did not have a hit in the inning.
"He started to mix in that changeup more and more as the game went on," Barney said of Volquez. "We were just trying to scratch out runs for Sanch. He was throwing the ball so well, keeping them off balance, so we knew if we got a few for him we'd be in pretty good shape."
Stay hot, K-Mo: Morales, the Royals' designated hitter, continued his amazing hot streak with yet another homer, his fifth of the road trip, in the seventh inning. Morales just missed a homer to the second deck earlier in the at-bat, driving one that landed a few feet foul. He then crushed one to right-center, his team-high 15th homer. He's now 10-for-22 on the trip
"He keeps swinging well," Yost said of Morales. "He almost got one a couple of pitches before and then he got another one up and didn't miss it."
"Is that good? As a former infielder, I never thought I'd get 70 outfield assists." -- Gordon, joking about his throw to the plate in the fourth
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Donaldson had a streak of reaching base in nine consecutive plate appearances that was snapped with a groundout in the bottom of the third inning.
Toronto has 54 quality starts this season, which is tied with the Cubs for the most in the Majors. Sanchez has the best win percentage (.900) before the All-Star break by a Blue Jays starter in franchise history (minimum 15 starts).
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Chris Young (2-7, 6.24 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals in Game 2 of the series. Young is making his first appearance here since Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, when he pitched 4 2/3 innings in a 14-2 win to help lift the Royals to a 3-1 series lead. First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. CT.
Blue Jays: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (5-9, 4.21 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue this three-game series. Dickey allowed three runs over seven innings during his last start, a loss to the Indians.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. 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.