TORONTO — Geez, the Royals made it hard on themselves Thursday night before securing a 9-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays that enabled them to exit the Rogers Centre with a split in their four-game series.
Twice, the Royals built five-run leads, at 5-0 and 8-3, but, each time, the Blue Jays made them squirm. The Royals saw starter Luke Hochevar exit after just five innings because of a sprained right ankle, which ignited a bullpen parade.
It all set the stage for closer Jonathan Broxton to cue up another thrill ride in the ninth – but he worked around a one-out single by getting José Bautista, after falling behind 3-0, to line into a game-ending double play.
That’s mild, really, on the Brox-o-meter – isn’t it?
“We did everything we could to try to give it away,” Broxton admitted. “Somehow, Ned (Yost) put it together to somehow get the win. Each guy he put out there got into a little bit of trouble, but we found a way to make it work.”
Even so, it was a lot harder than it should have been after the Royals rapped out a season-high 16 hits, including a career-best four by Salvy Perez. Every starter had at least one hit. Eric Hosmer had three RBIs.
“It was wild,” Yost said. “This is a club that’s going to give you wild rides because they’re all aggressive guys who take hacks at the ball. No lead is safe in this ballpark.”
Hochevar (6-8) got a victory after yielding two runs and four hits in five innings before his injury forced his departure. It took six relievers to cover the final four innings, but the Royals made it work.
Broxton got his 21st save in 24 opportunities.
“A split feels good right now,” left fielder Alex Gordon said, “because I felt we didn’t play that well. So to come out of here with two wins was big. Now, we’ll move on to (three games in) Detroit.”
Hochevar injured his ankle on a two-out play at first base in fifth inning.
Let’s reset: The Royals led 5-2 when J.P. Arencibia reached on a one-out throwing error by Alcides Escobar from deep short. The ball bounced on the turf, and Hosmer whiffed on one of his backhand power sweeps.
Hosmer then bobbled Colby Rasmus’ two-out routine grounder, which was initially scored a single – apparently because Hochevar halted in his break to first. It was later changed to an error on Hosmer.
Whatever…it put runners at first and second for José Bautista, who leads the majors in homers. Further, Hochevar twisted his right ankle in a belated stab at the base after taking the throw from Hosmer.
“When I caught (the ball),” Hochevar said, “I just lunged for the bag. I hit the bag on the inside and rolled my ankle. It would have been bad if it wasn’t on the inside (of the ankle). When I was pushing off the rubber, it was biting me pretty good.”
Hochevar stayed in the game long enough to end the inning by striking out Bautista before handing the three-run lead to the bullpen.
Let’s reset (again): Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez (5-7) retired the first seven Royals before Perez reached on a one-out single in the second that extended his career-best hitting streak to 11 games.
Jarrod Dyson followed with a turf double through the infield into the right-center gap.
A walk to Gordon loaded the bases before Escobar and Hosmer produced successive RBI singles for a 2-0 lead. Billy Butler then broke a season-long, 0-for-25 streak against Toronto with a single on a sharp grounder to third.
Brett Lawrie gloved the ball at the line, and his off-balance, which had no chance to get Butler, was acres wide of first base. That error permitted another run to score.
A walk to Betancourt reloaded the bases, and Mike Moustakas followed with a drive to deep center for a sacrifice fly for a 5-0 lead. Alvarez ripped off his glasses off after ending the inning – and snapped them. He worked thereafter without eyewear.
Hochevar quickly gave two of them back when Kelly Johnson opened the Toronto third with a double, and Arencibia followed with a cannon-blast homer to left.
Fast forward: Hochevar escaped the fifth, and Tim Collins, once a Blue Jays’ farmhand, inherited that three-run lead to start the sixth. He made it through that inning but exited after Arencibia hit another homer – this one with one out in the seventh.
The Royals regained control, it seemed, by striking for three runs in the eighth against Francisco Cordero after loading the bases with no outs on successive singles by Moustakas, Jeff Francoeur and Perez.
Gordon’s looping one-out single made it 6-3 before the game’s key play occurred on Hosmer’s two-out hopper to the right side. First baseman Edwin Encarnacion broke for the ball, which meant Cordero had to cover first – which he was slow to do.
“With that turf,” Hosmer said, “I knew it was going to get by Encarnacion. My goal then was to beat the pitcher to the bag. It worked out.”
It turned into a two-run single because Dyson scored all the way from second base.
“Cordero not getting over,” Toronto manager John Farrell said, “that’s a big play. That’s two runs.”
And that made it 8-3. Safe?
The Blue Jays quickly roughed up Aaron Crow in their eighth. A one-out walk and two singles produced one run. Crow retired Rajai Davis on a grounder to third, which moved the runners to second and third with two outs.
In came José Mijares for a left-on-left matchup against Kelly Johnson, but the Jays countered by sending up Ben Francisco – and Francisco ripped a two-run triple into the right-center gap.
That made it 8-6 and prompted another pitching change – to Kelvin Herrera to face Arencibia, the two-homer man. Herrera retired Arencibia on a grounder to deep third.
Yuniesky Betancourt further stemmed the momentum by leading off the ninth with a homer against Drew Carpenter. That made it a three-run cushion for Broxton.
“They kept pushing it,” Gordon said, “but we kept matching them. And Broxton, once again, came in and slammed the door.”