For the first time all season, the Royals were the team on everybody’s radar. The national media spent most of today and yesterday writing about and tweeting about Kansas City, but for all the wrong reasons.
As the Royals prepared to travel to Toronto, it was revealed that 10 of players would not be making the trip due to being unvaccinated. Canada requires vaccination to enter the country.
The Royals took just over 60% of its active roster to Toronto, calling up eight players to fill in. Despite that, and powered by replacement players and role players, Kansas City’s fill-ins answered the call, taking down a likely playoff team in a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays.
Kansas City was without four of its five top hitters according to wRC+ and started Nick Pratto and Nate Eaton, both making their Major League debut.
Despite being short handed against a team that will likely be playing baseball in October, the Royals that remained played well, outhitting the Blue Jays while both teams remained scoreless early.
Angel Zerpa, making his first start of the season, gave up just two hits across his first four innings and worked a five-pitch inning in the 4th, despite all three outs coming off the bat at over 100 MPH.
The Royals had its first proper threat in the 5th, with Nicky Lopez leading off with a double before moving to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt. Edward Olivares put the Royals in front with an RBI single, giving Kansas City a 1-0 lead.
Olivares was thrown out at 2nd though, which proved to be consequential with Bobby Witt Jr. following the single up with a solo homer to put the Royals up 2-0.
All the Blue Jays hard contact finally caught up to Zerpa in the 5th when Matt Chapman cut the lead in half with a solo homer, making it 2-1.
Chapman’s home run was the only run Zerpa gave up across his five innings of work, giving the Royals about as much as you could ask for under these circumstances. Zerpa gave up just the one running four hits and two walks, striking out two.
Jackson Kowar relieved him in the 6th and immediately found himself in trouble after Alejandro Kirk led off the inning with a double. He got out of the jam by striking out two of the next three Blue Jays.
The Royals had another threat brewing in the 8th, after Olivares’ third hit of the game led off the inning. He was replaced by Brewer Hicklen when Witt Jr hit and infield single to 2nd base. Hicklen was thrown out trying to advance to third on the hit.
A Witt Jr stolen base put him in scoring position with one out for Vinnie Pasquantino, who singled him to third. A Emmanuel Rivera strikeout and Ryan O’Hearn line out ended the threat.
Nate Eaton gave Kansas City some much needed breathing room with a solo blast in the top of the 9th, putting the Royals up 3-1. The homer capped off a 10-pitch at-bat and was also Eaton’s first career hit.
Meanwhile, the bullpen continued to work. Kowar gave the Royals two scoreless innings, followed a scoreless frame from Taylor Clarke before Scott Barlow closed out the game. Toronto brought the tying run to the plate in the last half of the 9th with Cavan Biggio, but Barlow induced a game-ending double play to shut down the Blue Jays rally.
The deleted roster’s win improved the Royals record to 36-53.
Up Next: Royals at Blue Jays, Friday, July 15, Rogers Centre, 6:05 PM CDT. RHP Zack Greinke (3-5, 4.52 ERA) v. RHP Alek Manoah (9-4, 2.34 ERA)