Eleven runs. That’ll wipe away the sour taste the Royals experienced from three deflating weekend losses at Minnesota. Eleven runs and seven solid innings from lefty Everett Teaford.
This 11-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the start of a four-game series Monday at Rogers Centre was exactly what the Royals needed after their flatlining performance Saturday and Sunday against the Twins.
“Two bad days,” third baseman Mike Moustakas agreed, “but like I’ve always said, you’ve got to be able to put those behind you. Those two days in Minnesota were real bad, but what makes great teams great is being able to put days like that behind you.
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“Now we want to build off today and work toward tomorrow.”
Salvy Perez’s two-run homer erased a 1-0 deficit in the second inning against Jays ace Ricky Romero. Perez’s homer changed the game and was merely another example of what the Royals missed for three months while he recovered from torn knee cartilage.
“When he first hit it,” manager Ned Yost said, “I didn’t think it had a chance. He hit it so hard on a line that I didn’t think it had enough height to get out. But it got out, and that was huge.”
The Royals never looked back. They added two more runs in the third and two more in the fourth before dropping the hammer in a five-run seventh.
Moustakas did the actual hammer-dropping, against reliever David Pauley, by hitting his first career grand slam. It was also the first time in 55 at-bats with the bases loaded that the Royals homered this year.
It was all part of a balanced 14-hit attack that saw every starter reach base at least one.
“It was really cool,” Moustakas said. “I got a good pitch to hit. I got a fastball over the middle and just tried not to do too much. I just tried to get the guy in from third. I was fortunate that it carried out of the yard.”
Not do too much? It easily cleared the center-field wall.
Moustakas confessed: “I hit it pretty good.”
Then there was Teaford, 1-1, pitching a career-high seven innings before Kelvin Herrera and Tim Collins closed out the victory. Teaford served up a pair of homers, to José Bautista and Colby Rasmus, but little else in a 102-pitch effort.
“The defense was awesome,” Teaford said. “I had 19 outs on balls in play. They play to their park and want to hit home runs. Luckily, I was able gosh, there were so many line drives at guys. I’ll take them, definitely; I’m not going to argue with that.”
The Royals, 36-42, pulled back to within 5½ games of first-place Chicago in the American League Central Division. They’re just 3½ behind second-place Cleveland. All after that momentum-draining two days in Minneapolis.
“The way we swung the bats tonight,” Yost said, “especially against a darn good pitcher, gave Teaford the ability to make a mistake or two against a real powerful lineup.”
It didn’t start well.
Teaford found immediate trouble when Brett Lawrie opened the Toronto first with a double into the left-center gap. Lawrie went to third on Rasmus’ fly to deep center before Teaford walked Bautista and hit Edwin Encarnacion.
But Teaford, and this was also pivotal, limited the damage to just one run; Lawrie scored on Yunel Escobar’s slow grounder to second before Kelly Johnson flied out to left.
“Normally, I’m not very good in the first inning,” Teaford said. “But, luckily, I was able to keep the damage to one (run). After that when you have 11 runs, it’s easy to pitch.”
Romero, 8-3, began the second inning by striking out Yuniesky Betancourt and Moustakas before walking Jeff Francoeur.
Perez followed by hooking a first-pitch fastball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer and a 2-1 lead. He also had a single in four at-bats and is hitting .379 in eight games since returning from the disabled list.
“Everything has a way different feel (with Perez back),” Yost said. “That’s why, when he went down him going into spring training was my worst nightmare. I never thought it would happen. And when it happened, it was like whoa.”
The Royals struck for two more runs in the third inning.
Eric Hosmer grounded a one-out single into center and went to second on Billy Butler’s grounder to third. Betancourt pulled an RBI double into left before Moustakas yanked an RBI double over Bautista’s head in right.
Moustakas’ double broke a zero-for-15 skid, but the best was yet to come.
Toronto got one run back in its third on a two-out homer by Bautista on a 1-2 pitch — his major-league-leading 27th homer of the year.
But the Royals came right back against Romero.
Perez started the fourth with a single up the middle and went to third on Jason Bourgeois’ double past third.
Alex Gordon’s RBI single through the middle of the diamond made it 5-2. Bourgeois probably could have scored easily — probably should have — but he broke hesitantly from second and third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez played it safe.
Alcides Escobar struck out, but Bourgeois scored, and Gordon went to second, on a wild pitch. That made it 6-2.
Rasmus trimmed one run off the lead with a two-out homer in the fifth off the facing of the fourth deck — the fourth deck! — just inside the right-field line. It was a towering shot but just one run.
Teaford recalled surrendering another bomb last year to Wily Mo Peña while pitching for Class AAA Omaha in Las Vegas.
“The Wily Mo (Peña) ball, I think, was farther,” he said, “because Wily Mo’s ball wasn’t coming down when we lost sight of it. I think Rasmus’ lost a little altitude, but we’ll have to check with air-traffic control.”
Betancourt pulled a single past third for his 19th RBI in his last 13 games. Moustakas followed by jumping a first-pitch fastball for his first career grand slam.
And it was 11-3.