KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The big-league learning curve, as rookies Danny Duffy and Nate Adcock can painfully attest, isn't some gentle bend in the career path. The hope is experiences like Wednesday's 9-8 loss to Toronto lead to something better down the road.
Because this wasn't much fun.
Duffy (0-2) is now winless in five starts since arriving from Triple-A Omaha after laboring through 96 pitches in four innings. He allowed five runs, including three in a span of three batters immediately after the Royals built a 4-2 lead.
The game got away in the sixth when Adcock found trouble after retiring the first two hitters. Two walks sandwiched a single in loading the bases before Adam Lind unloaded a grand slam that turned a one-run deficit into a five-run chasm.
That was just enough for the Blue Jays to weather three-run homers by Melky Cabrera in the third against starter Carlos Villanueva and Billy Butler in the eighth against one-time Royals closer Octavio Dotel.
And... Alex Gordon's two-out RBI double in the ninth against Casey Janssen, which put the tying run at second. The game ended when Cabrera sent a soft looper that shortstop Mike McCoy ran down on the outfield grass.
Villanueva is a veteran swingman who was pressed recently into the rotation. He weathered a four-run third, which included Cabrera's homer, in extending his personal winning streak to eight games over three seasons. He is 4-0 this season with a 3.09 ERA.
The loss was the 19th in 25 games for the Royals, who dropped to a season-worst 10 games under .500 at 26-36. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota in their quest to avoid having the American League's worst record.
The Blue Jays (32-30) finished with 13 hits, including four by Corey Patterson. They took a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Juan Rivera in the first and third innings before answering the Royals' four-run third with Jayson Nix's three-run homer in the fourth.
Jason Rzepcynski replaced Villanueva to start the eighth but exited after the Royals put runners at first and second with two outs. In came Dotel, who served up Butler's homer before striking out Wilson Betemit.
Janssen wobbled through the ninth but closed out the victory for his first save of the season. The Royals need a victory this afternoon to salvage a split in the four-game series.
Duffy permitted career-highs of five runs and eight hits in his four innings. He also walked four, which boosts his total to 17 in 24 1/3 innings.
His ERA now stands at 5.55.
Duffy began the night by wobbling through a 25-pitch first inning that saw him surrender one run on two singles and a walk. The walk and Rivera's RBI single came with two outs.
Toronto added another two-out run in the third after Duffy retired the first two hitters. Jose(acu) Bautista grounded a hard single through the middle, moved to second on a walk to Lind and scored when Rivera delivered another RBI single.
The Royals answered in their third after Chris Getz led off with a single to center and moved to second when Villanueva walked Brayan Pen~a. Alcides Escobar loaded with the bases with a perfectly placed bunt single to the left side.
Gordon's sacrifice fly to deep right cut the deficit to 2-1 before Cabrera crushed an 0-2 breaking ball — sending it 417 feet into the seats beyond the right-field bullpen for a three-run homer and a 4-2 lead.
Duffy spit it back with alarming swiftness.
Aaron Hill opened the Toronto fourth with a single, and Rajai Davis drew a walk before Duffy served up a three-run homer to Nix, a No. 9 hitter batting .196. Duffy jumped ahead 0-2 before the count went full.
Nix then tomahawked a 93-mph fastball for a 406-foot homer to left. Toronto led 5-4.
Adcock's problems surfaced with two outs in the sixth after McCoy drew a walk. Patterson followed with a single to right and took second when Francoeur tried to nail McCoy at third.
That prompted an intentional walk to Bautista before Lind rocked a 1-0 fastball over the center-field wall for his second career grand slam — and a 9-4 lead.