Blue Jays, Royals split doubleheader with strong pitching performances
Steven Matz carried no-hitter into 6th inning of afternoon win
The Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays got wildly different yet equally effective pitching performances in splitting their day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
In the opener, starter Steven Matz held the Royals without a hit into the sixth inning, and Jonathan Davis and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered to give the Blue Jays a 5-1 victory. In the nightcap, the Royals followed veteran Ervin Santana's spot start with four relief pitchers before Salvador Perez's two-out, walk-off homer gave them a 3-2 win.
Greg Holland (2-1) was the last of the relievers in Game 2 for Kansas City, working around an error in the seventh inning to keep the game tied 2-all. Joel Payamps (0-1) then retired Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi in the bottom half before Perez sent a pitch splashing into the left-field fountains to earn the doubleheader split.
Or maybe he was just ready to go home after Friday's rainout forced them to play a doubleheader.
The afternoon began with Matz (3-0) allowing just a pair of walks before Nicky Lopez's blooper with one out in the sixth inning. He gave up Benintendi's two-out double later in the inning for the only other blemish on an otherwise excellent outing — six innings, five strikeouts and just five balls that left the infield.
"It's fun to get in a groove early in the season, especially when you have a lineup like this," said Matz, who struggled with injuries throughout his six seasons with the Mets. "Get a little better every time out. That's the goal going forward."
Minor (1-1) retired his first two batters before Guerrero and Randal Grichuk hit back-to-back singles and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. drilled a two-run double off the wall. That was all the runs until Davis hit his first homer, a drive off the left-field foul pole leading off the fifth. Guerrero tagged his second homer of the series leading off the sixth.
"Always looking for the first one," Davis said, "and now I can breath a little bit."
The only no-hitter in Blue Jays history is Dave Stieb's 3-0 win over Cleveland on Sept. 2, 1990.
"We ran into a good start today. Matz was throwing the ball well," Matheny said. "He had good late movement — you could tell the guys weren't seeing the late movement. Really baring in, using the back door."
The second game was tied 2-2 in the fourth inning, turning it into a chess match between bullpens. The Blue Jays' finally cracked when Payamps, their fourth reliever after spot-starter Tommy Milone, served up Perez's game-ending homer.
"We knew we had well-rested arms in the bullpen ready for leverage," Matheny said. "I thought everybody did a nice job coming through. That's a tough one. All of them did a fantastic job of keeping us right there with a good offence."
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