By Jeffrey Flanagan and Scott Chasen
MLB.com |@FlannyMLB |
KANSAS CITY -- Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis picked a perfect time for his first two-homer game in the Majors.
Travis led off the game with his eighth homer, then hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth off closer Royals closer Kelvin Herrera and the Blue Jays held on for a 4-3 win on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
"You know what? I like blacked out [during the at-bat]," Travis said. "It's hard enough to see 100 as it is. Just thankful everything worked out."
Herrera couldn't believe Travis hit a homer off a 97-mph fastball inside.
"I didn't know how he hit that," Herrera said. "I was shocked. It kept carrying. Pretty good billy club."
"It was actually a pitch that was up and in," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I've never seen anyone hit a pitch like that off Herrera -- 97-mph fastball."
Toronto remained tied with Baltimore atop the American League East. The plummeting Royals have lost seven of nine and fell a season-worst seven games under .500.
Left-hander Francisco Liriano made his first start for the Blue Jays since being acquired from the Pirates at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He was sharp, giving up seven hits and two earned runs through six innings. He walked two and struck out five.
"I like everything I saw," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Liriano's performance. "He looked really, really good."
Royals right-hander Dillon Gee turned in his best overall start of the season, going six innings and giving up four hits and three runs. He walked four and struck out two. It was his first quality start in eight tries.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Travis' winning blast: With the score tied at 3 and two out in the ninth inning, Travis' second blast of the game traveled an estimated 373 feet and left the bat with an exit velocity of 98 mph, according to Statcast™. The Blue Jays attempted to tack on to the slim lead with a two-out rally, loading the bases for Michael Saunders, but he struck out to end the ninth.
"Yeah, it's crazy," Travis said. "Two home runs in the big leagues in the same game. It's stuff you dream about as a kid."
And his manager was just as excited.
"He's on a nice little roll right now," Gibbons said. "He stepped up."
A mini rally: The Royals have been so hard-pressed for offense that when they score two runs in an inning, it's newsworthy. That happened in the fifth. Paulo Orlando led off with his third homer of the season. Then with two out, Cheslor Cuthbert drew a walk. Lorenzo Cain followed with a rope into the left-center-field alley for an RBI triple.
Now walk it out: Patience paid off for the Blue Jays in the third. After Jose Bautista lined out to left, Josh Donaldson worked the count full and then walked after seeing eight pitches from Gee. He was one-upped by Edwin Encarnacion, who saw 10 pitches before drawing a walk. Those quality at-bats set the stage for Saunders, who doubled in a run. Troy Tulowitzki plated another with a groundout to short, as the Blue Jays went up 3-1.
Huge caught stealing: Orlando reached second base in the ninth off closer Joaquin Benoit when Darwin Barney committed a two-base error with one out. Orlando tried to steal third, but was thrown out by catcher Russell Martin. Jarrod Dyson followed with a pinch-hit single that likely would have scored Orlando easily with the tying run.
"I saw the first pitch he was slow to the plate," Orlando said. "I just didn't get a good jump. I know there if I get to third, Dyson can have a different situation, he can hit a fly ball or a grounder."
Yost had no problem with Orlando's attempt.
"He's looking right there -- Benoit is 1.7 [seconds] to the plate -- he didn't get a great jump, but not a horrible jump," Yost said. "Barney made a nice play to scoop it and tag.
"Just trying to play to win. You can't sit back. We haven't had many hits the last few weeks. You have to put yourself in the position to win."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays' last 15 home runs have been solo shots. They entered the game one back of a club record set in 2000 for longest streak of solo home runs. They eclipsed the previous mark after Travis' second home run of the game.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With one out and none on in the ninth, Barney hit a ground ball toward third base and sprinted to first. After the ball whizzed by the glove of Royals third baseman Cuthbert, shortstop Alcides Escobar swooped in and made a terrific throw to first to record the out. The play was confirmed after a short review.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (11-1, 2.71 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET for the second game of the series at Kauffman Stadium. Earlier in the week, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Sanchez would likely move to the bullpen, but he announced later that the team would instead go with a six-man rotation.
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (7-1, 2.98) will get the ball for the rematch against the Blue Jays on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. CT. Duffy enters the game fresh off his best career start, as he struck out a franchise-record 16 against the Rays on Monday, giving up just one hit and one walk. The Royals have won in each of Duffy's last seven starts and are 12-3 with him as a starter in 2016.