KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The way the Toronto Blue Jays had been playing, manager John Gibbons was perfectly content with leaving Kansas City having won two out of three.
Just imagine how he’d have felt if they could have held on Sunday.
Alex Gordon drove home Chris Getz with a single in the ninth inning, and the Royals rallied from a pair of one-run deficits to beat the Blue Jays 3-2 and avoid a three-game sweep.
“I thought we played great all three games,” said Gibbons, whose team limped into town after losing six of their first nine. “Although it’d have been nice to win this one, we’ll feel good about going home. … We played three good games here.”
That’s the bright spot, of course.
Besides losing the series ender, the Blue Jays also lost star shortstop Jose Reyes until the All-Star break after he severely sprained his left ankle while sliding into second Friday night. Reyes remained with the team through the weekend, and watched the Blue Jays’ Brandon Morrow and Royals starter Ervin Santana engage in quite a little pitcher’s duel on Sunday.
The Royals finally broke through off Toronto reliever Darren Oliver (0-1) with one out in the ninth. Gordon swatted the first pitch he saw from Oliver into the outfield, and Getz slid home easily ahead of the tag as Kansas City players spilled out of the home dugout.
“We didn’t hit it well all day, but Ervin kept us in the game,” Gordon said. “I was just trying to put a good swing on it and make something happen.”
Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth inning for the Royals, while Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain drove in the other runs that kept them in the game.
Edwin Encarnacion homered and drove in both runs for the Blue Jays, who had won six straight and eight of 10 against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. That included a four-game sweep in their only series in Kansas City last season.
“We’re happy,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Toronto is a tough team, and it’s a team that a lot of people predicted to win the AL East. They have a lot of good offence over there.”
The Blue Jays struck in the first inning when Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista delivered back-to-back base hits. Jarrod Dyson bobbled Bautista’s routine single in centre, and that sent Cabrera to third base. He scored moments later on Encarnacion’s groundout.
Dyson atoned for his bobble with a leadoff triple in the third inning. After Gordon extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a check-swing single that went about 15 feet, Escobar hit a deep sacrifice fly to right field that knotted the game 1-all.
Encarnacion, who’d been 5 for 44 on the season, gave Toronto the lead back in the sixth. He sent the first pitch of the inning skimming over the wall in left field for a homer.
“That’s huge,” Gibbons said. “That’s a good sign for Eddie.”
Kansas City matched him in the bottom half, though, when Billy Butler sent a blooper to right field, reached second on a two-out single by Eric Hosmer, and then managed to chug home on Cain’s base hit to left field — the big DH looked as if he needed oxygen when he got back to the dugout.
The fact that the game was 2-all at that point was a testament to some nice defence.
And some fairly clutch pitching.
Santana put the leadoff runner aboard in the second and third innings but got some help from a pair of inning-ending double plays. He also left two stranded in the fifth, thanks to a nice play by Dyson of tracking down Emilio Bonifacio’s fly ball in centre field.
His greatest Houdini act may have come in the eighth, when Santana walked Encarnacion to put runners on first and second with two outs. He struck out J.P. Arencibia to escape the inning.
Morrow didn’t have nearly as much trouble, retiring eight straight at one point. He wound up striking out three and issuing only an intentional walk in six innings.
“I didn’t have my best stuff, but I made a lot of good pitches and kept us in it,” Morrow said. “I had a nice rhythm with my fastball, hitting in and hitting out. I think I did a good job of keeping them off balance.”
NOTES: Royals RHP Jeremy Guthrie, who turns 34 on Monday, will start Tuesday’s interleague game at Atlanta. Blue Jays RHP Gavin Floyd will start Monday against the White Sox. … Blue Jays 3B Brett Lawrie (ribs) made a rehab start for Class A Dunedin at 2B on Sunday. … Royals 3B Mike Moustakas got the day off from the starting lineup. He was 1 for 17 on the homestand.