KANSAS CITY -- Whit Merrifield's two-run double capped a wild ninth inning as the Royals rallied for a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. It was Merrifield's first career walk-off hit.The Royals faced a 4-1 deficit entering the ninth before mounting a two-out rally,
KANSAS CITY -- Whit Merrifield's two-run double capped a wild ninth inning as the Royals rallied for a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. It was Merrifield's first career walk-off hit.
The Royals faced a 4-1 deficit entering the ninth before mounting a two-out rally, as they had previously been 0-29 when trailing after the eighth inning. Salvador Perez doubled with one out and then scored on a two-out single by Alcides Escobar. Alex Gordon followed with an RBI to score Brandon Moss, who had kept the line moving with a walk, to make it 4-3. After Gordon's hit, right-hander Jason Grilli replaced Aaron Loup.
Merrifield said his goal wasn't to win the game with one swing. He took the first two pitches then fouled off the third. After taking another ball, Merrifield squared up a 93-mph fastball and sent it over the head of left fielder John Smith Escobar trotted home, and Gordon came around to score the winning run from first.
• Merrifield gets knocked down in celebration
"I was just hoping [Perez] wouldn't run out on the field too soon," Moss said. "[Escobar] scored and Salvy was already on the way out and I was like, 'Wait, wait, wait, we've gotta make sure Gordo gets around, too.'"
The Royals, who improved to .500 for the first time since April 19, mobbed Merrifield in the middle of the field.
"I try to soak in those moments as long as I can," Merrifield said.
Though the Royals celebrated, the Blue Jays felt the pain of letting one slip away.
"We had it and couldn't get that final out," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We missed a lot of [scoring] opportunities, too."
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was unavailable to pitch in the ninth. Osuna, who has 19 saves, wasn't feeling good, according to Gibbons. Left-hander J.A. Happ worked 6 2/3 innings and allowed just four hits and one run. He has given up four runs over three straight quality starts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Breaking out: The Blue Jays took the lead in the fourth inning when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki doubled to right-center after first baseman Kendrys Morales was hit by a pitch. Morales scored from first on the play. With Tulowitzki on third base three batters later, Junis uncorked a wild pitch. Tulowitzki scored easily for a 2-0 lead. Before his double, Tulowitzki only had four extra-base hits over a 22-game span since coming off the disabled list.
Evading trouble: The Royals threatened to tie it in the seventh inning before Happ and Barnes retired three straight batters to end the inning. Lorenzo Cain doubled and Eric Hosmer reached on an error by second baseman Ryan Goins to put runners on the corners with none out. Perez then singled to score Cain. But Happ induced a pop out from Mike Moustakas and struck out Moss. Barnes got Escobar to fly out to keep it 2-1.
"This game can rip your heart out and tonight was one of those nights." -- Happ
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (4-5, 4.98 ERA) will make a club-leading 16th start on Saturday in the middle game of the series against the Royals at 2:15 p.m. ET. Estrada has allowed 14 home runs in 85 innings, but the spacious dimensions at Kauffman Stadium could work in his favor.
Royals: Left-hander Jason Vargas (10-3, 2.27) will look for his Major League-leading 11th win on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. CT. Vargas allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings in his previous outing, a win over the Angels.
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Wilson Alexander is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City and covered the Royals on Friday.
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City and covered the Blue Jays on Friday.