Blue Jays can't cash in chances against Royals
Toronto goes 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position
The Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays both had plenty of opportunities to score runs Friday night.
The Royals took advantage of their chances while the Blue Jays came up empty.
Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain homered as Kansas City defeated Toronto 6-1 on a glorious spring evening at Rogers Centre. Jose Bautista went deep for the Blue Jays, who left 14 men on base and were outhit 9-8.
Jason Vargas outduelled J.A. Happ in Kansas City's second straight victory over the Blue Jays, who had their nine-game winning streak end a night earlier. Toronto (32-24) was a woeful 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
"When you get on one of those hot streaks that we were on, we were cashing those in," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "But Vargas was really, really good."
The Kansas City starter allowed seven hits and one earned run over six innings. Gordon homered in the fourth and Cain added another two-run shot in the eighth to knock Happ out of the game.
Despite the loss, Toronto maintained its 2 1/2-game lead on second-place New York in the American League East division standings after the Yankees dropped a 6-1 decision to Minnesota.
The Blue Jays entered this four-game series on an offensive tear, piling up the runs over three straight series sweeps. The trick will be keeping that win streak hangover to a minimum.
"When you win nine games in a row, you expect to come out the next day and win," said Toronto catcher Erik Kratz. "That mentality hasn't changed the last two nights. We were a couple inches away last night from winning and tonight we were a couple hits away from being back in this game."
After the game, the Blue Jays announced that top prospect Marcus Stroman had been recalled from triple-A Buffalo and would start Saturday afternoon.
"We want to see him as a starter," Gibbons said. "He's been really good down there this year and this is his opportunity."
Toronto looked ready to do some damage in the first inning after Jose Reyes led off with a triple and Bautista reached on a walk. But like he did all night, Vargas snuffed out the threat.
"I feel something like that hopefully sets the tone for the game and fires us up," he said. "We were able to get a run the next inning and keep it moving from there."
Kansas City (26-28) padded its lead when Gordon smacked his fourth home run of the season. That was more than enough offence for Vargas (5-2), who allowed seven hits, one earned run and three walks while striking out seven.
Bautista gave the crowd of 21,543 a charge in the fifth with his 14th home run of the season. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a two-out walk but Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., struck out.
Happ (4-2) was tagged for six earned runs and nine hits over 7 2/3 innings. He walked two batters and had six strikeouts.
Toronto brought the potential tying run to the plate in the seventh against reliever Aaron Crow. Bautista walked and Lawrie hit a two-out single but Dioner Navarro flew out.
In the eighth, Cain tacked on some insurance runs with his second home run of the season.
"This is more of the offence that we envisioned coming out of spring training," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "We're not going to be a club that's going to lead the league in home runs but we've got home run power that we haven't used."
Recent triple-A callup Bobby Korecky relieved Happ in the eighth and retired the lone batter he faced.
With the bullpen in need of a rest, he stayed on for the ninth and retired the Royals in order. Korecky was sent back down after the game.