By Jeffrey Flanagan and Scott Chasen
MLB.com |@FlannyMLB |
KANSAS CITY -- The drought is over, and it ended in spectacular fashion.
Entering Sunday, more than 45 days had passed since the Royals won a series of three or more games. That stretch ended with a 7-1 win over the Blue Jays in the rubber game, as Kansas City plated two runs in the second inning and piled on with Kendrys Morales' third career grand slam in the seventh.
It was the first time the Royals scored more than four runs in a game since July 27. It also was their first series win of at least three games since beating the Tigers in a set on June 16-19. Kansas City also won a two-game series against the Cardinals to close out June.
While the bats came alive, the pitching was just as sharp. Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, who pitched in a win for just the second time since June 17, went 6 2/3 innings and gave up five hits and one run in earning his seventh victory. Alcides Escobar also hit his second home run.
"To get into the seventh scoreless against that lineup was great," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I wouldn't say that he beared down because he did from the first pitch. But he made better pitches when he needed to. He ended up walking two or three guys [four], but he was just missing. He did a great job of not giving in."
The Royals pulled within eight games of an American League Wild Card spot, while the Blue Jays dropped one game back of the Orioles atop the AL East, after the O's defeated the White Sox.
"Today was a little bit frustrating, but it's always tough playing here," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They held us in check."
Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman took the loss. He gave up three runs in five innings, as Toronto dropped to 4-8 in his last 12 starts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Picking up his teammates: Just like Eric Hosmer picked up his teammates on Saturday night by drilling a go-ahead two-run single, Morales bailed out Lorenzo Cain and Hosmer with his grand slam on Sunday -- Statcast™ estimated it traveled 459 feet from home plate with an exit velocity of 109 mph. The Royals had loaded the bases with none out, but Cain and Hosmer each struck out. Then, Morales jumped on reliever Brett Cecil's first pitch and clobbered it to deep center field, his first grand slam since July 30, 2012, at Texas, when he was with the Angels.
"I went to the plate with an aggressive mindset and I was able to make good, hard contact," Morales said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "It feels real good obviously, but we have to continue to keep winning. We're not done yet as a club."
Darwinism: Desperate to get on the board, the Blue Jays finally squeezed out a run with a two-out rally in the seventh inning. After Melvin Upton Jr. and Josh Thole made the first two outs, Darwin Barney walked and later advanced to third on a single from Devon Travis. With Jose Bautista batting, Royals right-hander Peter Moylan threw a wild pitch, which allowed Barney to score from third. That was the only run charged to Ventura. More >
"We really haven't been swinging [the bats well] since the beginning of the last homestand," Gibbons said. "We're due to explode."
#EskyMagic is back: Escobar delivered a shocking blast to right-center field into the Party Deck to snap a streak of 145 at-bats between blasts. It is believed to be Escobar's first opposite-field homer of his career and it was estimated to travel 417 feet from the plate, according to Statcast™. The homer was confirmed after a crew-chief review to determine whether there was fan interference. Escobar also delivered a bunt single in the four-run seventh. And he made a brilliant play defensively up the middle in the seventh to rob Thole of a hit. More >
"Esky had a great day," Yost said. "Huge defensive play up the middle -- not a lot of shortstops can make that play and not a lot of first basemen who can make that [scoop].
"Quite frankly, I was shocked when that ball went out. It just kept carrying and carrying. That was a big run, that third run."
Added Escobar, "I don't know where the ball is going. But I kept running hard and when I saw the ball ... I made a really good swing right there."
Controlled Chaos: Stroman's outing took several twists and turns. After two strikeouts in the first, he gave up a double and made a pair of wild throws. With Cheslor Cuthbert on second and two out, Stroman attempted a twirling pickoff throw, but the ball sailed into the outfield and Cuthbert advanced to third. One pitch later, Stroman tried to go inside and threw it behind Hosmer. After a brief chat with Thole, Stroman appeared to settle down, and he eventually forced Hosmer to ground out to end the scoring threat.
"I'm usually great with those," said Stroman, who had one career error entering the game. "I can make that play 10 out of 10 times if it happens again."
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Stroman was charged with two errors on Sunday, marking the 15th time in club history a pitcher had been charged with two in a game. The Blue Jays' record for errors in a game by a pitcher belongs to Juan Guzman, who committed three on May 23, 1997, in a 12-2 loss to the Angels.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Right-hander R.A. Dickey will get the ball on Monday at 7:07 p.m. ET, as the Blue Jays return home to open a three-game series against the Rays at Rogers Centre. After taking three straight losses, Dickey dominated in his last start against the Astros, giving up one run in seven innings.
Royals: After an off-day on Monday, right-hander Edinson Volquez will start on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. CT, as the Royals continue the homestand with the first of a three-game set against the White Sox. Volquez struggled in his last two outings, giving up 14 runs (12 earned) in 11 innings.