KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Here it was, just what the Royals needed Wednesday afternoon after their soppy Tuesday night fiasco: An in-form Zack Greinke and clear weather.
Throw in a big day by fan-favorite Brayan Pena and bingo:
The Royals rebounded from their worst loss of the season with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium.
"We just let that one go (Tuesday) night," manager Ned Yost said. "There was nothing really good about it. It was just one of those rainy, sloppy games. Those are games you don't even break down. You just let them go and move on."
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That's easier to do when it's Greinke's turn to pitch — and he responded by limiting the Blue Jays to two runs and six hits in eight innings before Joakim Soria escaped a jam in the ninth.
Greinke (6-9) struck out nine and walked none while producing his sixth quality start in his last seven outings. He is 5-1 with a 2.89 ERA in that span, and his overall ERA is down to 3.59.
"The slider was better," Greinke said. "The changeup worked well. And my location was better, but I didn't have great stuff."
It was good enough — more than good enough — when backed with a 10-hit attack that included three doubles and two triples. Pena led the way in a rare start by getting a career-high three hits, a double and two singles, and driving in two runs.
So two assumptions.
This eases concern that Greinke is battling a shoulder ailment — something that surfaced just prior to the All-Star break. Worries heightened last Friday when he was less than sharp in a 5-1 loss to the A's.
"It's still there a little bit," Greinke acknowledged, "but it's not too bad. It felt pretty good for the most part."
The drumbeat will accelerate among those who believe Pena deserves increased playing time. His start Wednesday was his first since June 26 and only his sixth of the season.
"That's something I can't control," Pena said. "The only thing I can control is to be a good teammate and give my teammates and the fans more than 100 percent. I have to keep working. I have to keep learning.
"But it's a great feeling to be able to help my team to win."
The victory enabled the Royals (41-53) to win the three-game series after suffering a 13-1 pounding Tuesday in a steady downpour that didn't seem to affect the Blue Jays. The Royals stole the opener Monday by scoring twice in the 10th inning for a 5-4 victory.
Toronto got the tying run to the plate against Soria in the ninth after two one-out singles. But Soria steadied and closed out the victory for his 26th save in 28 chances. It was his 19th straight successful conversion since a blown save on May 6 in Texas.
Toronto starter Marc Rzepczynski (0-1) allowed five runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Much of the damage came in a three-run fifth, when the Royals produced four hits, including a triple and two doubles.
Billy Butler, Jose Guillen and Pena drove in runs that turned a 2-1 game into 5-1. After that, it was a matter of whether Greinke could limit damage from a Toronto attack that leads the majors in homers.
"He's not going to give you a lot of runs," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He located pretty good with his fastball, but he got some people to chase some bad breaking balls. I've seen him better than that."
Greinke said he pitched "backward" in an effort to neutralize Toronto's power, i.e., off-speed pitches earlier in the count and fastballs late.
"They hack pretty well," he said. "So you can't get let them get to where they know what's coming. Guys like that, no matter how good your stuff is, if you don't mix it up, they're going to hit one eventually.
"To try to keep the ball in the park was the main plan. It worked out well."