It was a miserable series in Toronto from start to finish, even if it didn't do a lot of damage in the standings. The only real damage in the four-game set between the Royals and Blue Jays was to Josh Donaldson's pride.
On Sunday afternoon, the Royals pitching staff put forth their best performance of the four-game series. Unfortunately for Kansas City, the offense mustered their worst. Edinson Volquez held the Blue Jays to just two runs on four hits, but R.A. Dickey out-dueled him with seven shutout innings. The Royals made some noise at the end, but ultimately, it wasn't enough in an eventual 5-2 loss.
Oh yeah, and then there's all of the commotion. Josh Donaldson, moodier than the average sleep-deprived Cardinals fan, was hit on the back by Volquez in the bottom of the first. It certainly looked to be intentional; Steve Physioc mentioned on the radio that the Royals were weary of Donaldson potentially stealing signs on Friday's game. Either way, both sides were warned. In Donaldson's next at bat, Volquez nearly hit him again when a changeup slipped, but it didn't appear to be on purpose. Donaldson ultimately walked in the plate appearance.
Volquez (10-6) made one mistake in his six innings of work, a fastball up in the zone that Chris Colabello crushed into left field for a two-run home run. He threw 105 pitches to get 18 outs, giving up four hits, two runs, and walking three. He struck out four Blue Jays.
On the other side, R.A. Dickey (6-10) completely dominated Royals batters all afternoon. Alcides Escobar blooped an opposite-field single to open the game, but that was one of just two hits allowed by the knuckleballer. In seven shutout frames, he struck out six Royals. He threw 101 pitches.
The seventh inning was when things really began to heat up on the field. Ryan Madson plunked Troy Tulowitzki in the wrist, igniting a deafening chorus of boos in the Rogers Centre. Donaldson barked at home plate umpire Jim Wolf, completely convinced that Madson was trying to put another hitter on base in a two-run game to face the middle of the order. A few pitches later, Madson went up and in on Donaldson with a 2-2 fastball, sending the Blue Jays third baseman storming out of the batters box. He struck out on the next pitch.
In the top of the eighth, the Blue Jays finally retaliated. Reliever Aaron Sanchez retired the first two hitters he faced before firing two fastballs at Alcides Escobar, the second of which clocked him in the ankle. He was immediately ejected, erupting more boos from the puzzled Toronto fans. The benches cleared, Donaldson and Volquez barked at each other, and manager John Gibbins, who was ejected the previous inning, came back onto the field.
When the dust settled, Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was summoned on for a four-out save. The first hitter he faced was Ben Zobrist, who smashed a two-run home run to right-center field. It was the ninth home run for Zobrist this season, and his third in the last two days as a Royal.
Kelvin Herrera was summoned on for the eighth inning. He walked the bases loaded before surrendering the two runs right back, stretching the Blue Jays' lead back to three. Luke Hochevar struck Donaldson out to end the inning, prompting another bat toss. He ended to day 0-3 with three strikeouts. Osuna got the three outs in the ninth to earn his seventh save of the season.
It was the first time Kansas City has lost a series since June 29-July 1 in Houston. The loss dropped the Royals back down to 20 games over .500. At 62-42, they maintained their eight-game lead in the American League Central after the Mariners clipped the Twins in extra innings.
The Royals will finally get a much-needed off day tomorrow. They'll resume play on Tuesday with a three-game series in Detroit. Danny Duffy (4-5, 4.28 ERA) will oppose Justin Verlander (1-3, 4.86).
Overall, it was a disappointing series for the Royals, who also wound up dropping the season series to Toronto three games to four. Many Blue Jays fans seem adamant about this being a potential playoff preview. Maybe they should focus on getting within two games of a playoff spot first.
The #Royals: Bad Boys of Baseball again.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) August 2, 2015