TORONTO — This, too, is what speed can do: Mess up and un-mess it.
Jarrod Dyson fueled the Royals’ four-run third inning Sunday afternoon with a base-running mistake that led to a defensive-interference call in a 5-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
Dyson broke from second on a grounder to short, got trapped in a rundown but escaped when shortstop Jose Reyes nudged him without the ball during the rundown before third baseman Brett Lawrie applied a tag.
“I messed up,” Dyson said. “I was like, ‘Man, Reyes is right behind me (with the ball).’ That’s why I immediately turned around and looked at him. He was coming up and going to third (with a throw).
“Right then, I just wanted to get in a rundown and, hopefully, get (Alcides Escobar) to second. I had hit Reyes. I mean I bumped him because he never moved and was trying to shorten the distance (on the throws).
“It worked out perfect for us. We ended up with guys on first and third.”
What followed: Alex Gordon, RBI single. Emilio Bonifacio, RBI single. Eric Hosmer, two-run single. That turned a 1-0 lead into 5-0 for James Shields, who was in top form.
“That’s what separates Shields,” said Hosmer, who also had an RBI grounder in the first inning. “He knows how to pitch with a lead. That’s the difference between a good pitcher and a great pitcher.”
Shields, 10-8, worked seven innings before Luke Hochevar and Greg Holland closed out a shutout victory that enabled the Royals to avoid a three-game sweep in the weekend series.
Hochevar started the eighth inning by winning a 14-pitch battle with Anthony Gose on a called strike. Holland pitched the ninth in a non-save situation.
It also concluded a 4-2 trip that began with a three-game blitz at Minnesota. The Royals, 70-66, closed to within 51/2 games of Tampa Bay in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
“I’m obviously following what other teams are doing,” Shields said, “but, honestly, we’ve got to get some wins. That’s what it’s all about right now.”
Shields retired the first 11 Blue Jays and had that 5-0 lead when Edwin Encarnacion ripped a two-out single past third in the fourth inning. Adam Lind then worked back from an 0-2 hole for a walk.
It came to nothing.
The Blue Jays also got a one-out triple in the fifth from Rajai Davis, but Shields responded by striking out the next two hitters.
“Shields is tough,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons, who was the Royals’ bench coach during 2009-11. “We beat him (3-2) in KC, I think we had two hits, Jose Bautista hit a home run.”
Shields allowed three hits on Sunday while walking one and matching a season high with nine strikeouts. He won for the sixth time in his last seven decisions and recorded his league-leading 23rd quality start.
It was just what the Royals needed after two tough losses.
“The first game, you take hat off to (Mark) Buehrle,” manager Ned Yost said. “They beat us (3-2). (Saturday) was a game that (after blowing a late lead) in the past could knock us back for a couple of more days …
“We had James Shields on the mound, which couldn’t have been a better answer to what happened (Saturday). It just seems he’s getting stronger and stronger as the year goes on.”
Toronto starter J.A. Happ, 3-5, gave up all five runs and six hits in four innings, but two runs were unearned after that interference call in the third.
The Royals opened the scoring after Bonifacio drew a one-out walk in the first inning, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by catcher J.P. Arencibia.
It was the first of four steals by the Royals — two by Bonifacio and two by Dyson — that extended their major-league-leading total to 126.
Toronto shortened its infield and got a grounder to second by Hosmer, but Bonifacio got a good jump and Ryan Goins opted for the out at first. The Royals led 1-0.
“The speed guys did a great job today of getting on base,” said Hosmer, who had two of the Royals’ nine hits. “When those guys are on base, you’ve got to focus on them, and that leaves us good pitches to hit.”
The game turned in the third after Dyson — the “what speed do” kid — led off with single and stole second (despite a pitchout). Dyson broke for third on Escobar’s grounder to short. It should have been an easy out.
Toronto trapped Dyson between second and third, but home-plate umpire Gary Darling, the crew chief, ruled that Reyes interfered with Dyson in the rundown. It was a belated call; Dyson was already heading off the field.
“I’m just glad somebody saw it,” Yost said. “Gary saw it from behind the plate. It was a play that helped us break that inning open.”
The Royals took advantage when Gordon and Bonifacio followed with RBI singles for a 3-0 lead. After Bonifacio stole second, Hosmer delivered a two-run single that made it 5-0.
After Billy Butler flied out, Salvy Perez sliced a drive to right that hopped the wall for double that moved Hosmer to third. But the Royals missed the chance for bigger inning when Mike Moustakas and Justin Maxwell whiffed.
The Royals also missed on other opportunities.
They got Dyson to second with one out in the fourth on a single and a steal; Hosmer opened the fifth with a double; Bonifacio hit a one-out double in the seventh, and Escobar hit a one-out double in the ninth.
Nothing. The Royals finished three for 17 with runners in scoring position.
It didn’t matter. Not with Shields and the bullpen. And not after what speed had already done. Or as Hosmer said, “Just drop a couple of grenades in there and let it all go.”