The Toronto Blue Jays evened up this four game set with a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals tonight at Kauffman Stadium. Yusei Kikuchi and the Toronto bullpen had the team’s best pitching game of the season thus far.
Kris Bubic wasn’t especially efficient in his first inning of work this season, requiring 22 pitches to complete the inning. He managed to work a scoreless frame thanks in part to a sensational diving play by Bobby Witt Jr. ranging into the outfield.
The Royals went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, bringing up former Royal Whit Merrifield to lead off the second. Playing in his first game back in Kansas City since being traded at last summer’s deadline, he received an ovation from the crowd as he stepped to the plate. He promptly hit a liner that was snared by Edward Olivares in left field for an out. Bubic managed to work the rest of the inning scoreless.
Leading off the inning, Kansas City managed to draw first blood as Franmil Reyes showed off his power to the denizens of Kauffman Stadium for the first time as a Royal. Kikuchi gave him a slider on a tee, and Reyes did not miss it.
Matt Duffy would follow with a single, but Kikuchi coaxed a lineout from Hunter Dozier and Duffy was later gunned down trying to score on a shallow flyball to end the threat. Toronto responded in the next inning with three straight one-out singles courtesy of Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Matt Chapman. A run scored on the Chapman single, but Bubic was once again bailed out by his defense as Olivares threw out an aggressive Guerrero trying to advance to third base.
After an uneventful bottom of the third, the Blue Jays took their first lead of the series in the fourth in a manner I would describe as dusty. Merrifield lead off the inning with a double on a bouncing ball that probably should not have gotten past Duffy at third. Merrifield advanced to third on a flyout and then scored when Bubic uncorked a wild pitch. To add insult to injury, Bubic struck out Santiago Espinal two pitches later.
The next couple innings would be fairly uneventful as both starters settled in. Bubic wasn’t particularly efficient, running plenty of deep counts and only throwing one inning without a baserunner. Despite allowing plenty of hard contact, he put together a solid enough outing through his five innings. Kikuchi was the opposite, keeping the bases clean and racking up early count outs. The Royals threatened in the fifth, but Kikuchi struck out Nate Eaton and Nicky Lopez to snuff the rally. Those were his only two strikeouts of the evening as he finished five innings of one-run ball on a nice 69 pitches.
Carlos Hernández entered for Kansas City in the sixth and was rudely welcomed by Daulton Varsho as he deposited a first pitch fastball into the Royals bullpen to give Toronto a 3-1 lead.
The rest of the game was fairly uneventful for the Royals. Eaton made a really nice heads-up play to get a forceout at second on a pop-up that fell in the eighth, but Toronto’s fourth run scored on the same play. There was also a weird moment in the top of the ninth when Aroldis Chapman ran over first base umpire Vic Carapazza on a forceout. I don’t really know how to adequately explain it otherwise so just go look it up. Anyway, Kansas City’s offense never got going against Toronto’s bullpen, with Duffy’s third single of the evening representing their only baserunner after the fifth inning. The Blue Jays evened up the series in a 4-1 victory.
- Royals players that joined the team on a minor league deal went a combined 4-9 with a homer and a walk. All other Royals went 0-21 and failed to reach base.
- In the ninth inning, Chapman threw six consecutive pitches over 101 mph. The second of those was a sinker clocked at 103.5, which I’m fairly confident is the hardest pitch thrown in Royals history.
- On a positive note, Bubic managed 14 swings and misses. On a negative note, Bubic allowed seven hard hit balls (95+ mph exit velo).
The Royals will have another chance to secure at least a split tomorrow evening as Zack Greinke makes his second start of the season.
Kris Bubic - 5 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 HR
Yusei Kikuchi - 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR
Franmil Reyes - 1-4, HR, RBI, R
Matt Chapman - 3-4, 2B, RBI, R