TORONTO (AP) — Alejandro Kirk hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning, sending the Toronto Blue Jays to a 4-2 victory against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
Kansas City, in last place in the AL Central, was without 10 unvaccinated players, including All-Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi and infielder Whit Merrifield, during this four-game series in Toronto.
The Royals won the first game of the series Thursday and then dropped the next three.
Since unvaccinated foreign nationals aren’t allowed to enter Canada, the Royals roster included Triple-A and Double-A prospects, making an already difficult series against the high-powered Blue Jays more challenging.
Both teams scored a pair of runs in the first few innings, but that was the extent of the offense until Kirk’s homer off Wyatt Mills (0-1).
“Thank God we’ve finished off strong in the first half,” Kirk said through an interpreter.
Blue Jays starter José Berríos settled into a rhythm, working 6⅓ innings, allowing two earned runs and seven hits while striking out seven and walking one.
Left-hander Tim Mayza (3-0) took over for Berríos out of the bullpen, working 1⅔ innings in relief with two strikeouts to pick up the win. Jordan Romano worked a perfect ninth for his 20th save of the season.
Royals starter Kris Bubic kept Blue Jays hitters off balance. He was effective against the right-handed heavy Jays, allowing just two unearned runs and five hits while striking out four. The 24-year-old said by diversifying his pitches, he was able to get hitters swinging at low-probability pitches.
“We mixed pitches really well, rhythm, tempo,” Bubic said. “Just wanted to stay on the attack as much as I could all day, and good things happened.”
Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. let a routine double play ball go through his legs in the third inning. His 13th error of the season contributed to the first two Blue Jays runs.
But Royals manager Mike Matheny said he wasn’t worried about Witt’s lone miscue in this game.
“Errors happen to the very best players, and he does a great job of letting them go and getting ready for the next one,” Matheny said.
Matt Chapman had two more hits for the Blue Jays, giving him seven hits in his past six games.
Nick Pratto, one of Kansas City’s call-ups, hit his first major league home run in the second inning off Berríos.
“It was just something where he threw a pitch that kind of matched up with what I feel is a strength of mine, and I didn’t miss it,” the 24-year-old said.
During this four-game series, Pratto has showed why he’s considered one of the Royals’ top prospects, picking up three hits and playing well at first base.
Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen threw out the Royals Freddy Fermin trying to steal second in the fifth inning, then picked off Pratto at first to end a threat in the seventh. The Jays catcher is 3 for 10 throwing out base-stealers this season.
THE SIX FROM THE 6IX
Closer Jordan Romano was announced Sunday as a replacement for the All-Star Game, joining Blue Jays teammates Alek Manoah, Alejandro Kirk, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Santiago Espinal and George Springer on the AL roster.
Excluding the shortened 2020 season, the Royals will now have entered the All-Star break either tied for or in last place in the AL Central for the fourth consecutive season.
Bubic’s seven innings matched a career high. Sunday was also the second time in his career the left-hander has allowed no earned runs through seven innings, with the previous time coming Sept. 26, 2021.
Before Sunday’s game, the Royals recalled LHP Gabe Speier from Triple-A Omaha. Speier has a 2.33 ERA in 17 major-league appearances this season.
Blue Jays LHP Yusei Kikuchi threw a bullpen Sunday that was supervised by pitching coach Pete Walker. Kikuchi has been on the injured list with a neck strain since July 7.
Royals: Kansas City hosts Tampa Bay for three games beginning Friday night in its first series following the All-Star break.
Blue Jays: Toronto opens the second half with a three-game series at Boston that begins Friday night.
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