Blue Jays fall on walk-off despite Encarnacion's effort
First baseman drives in two; Blue Jays can't complete sweep
KANSAS CITY -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had the matchups he wanted in the ninth inning of Sunday's series finale against the Royals. Three left-handed hitters coming up for Kansas City and veteran lefty specialist Darren Oliver on the mound.
For the Blue Jays, however, the right matchups turned into the wrong results.
With one out, Kansas City won two straight lefty-versus-lefty duels and wound up with a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium. Chris Getz doubled to right-center and Alex Gordon promptly snapped a tie with a game-winning RBI single through the right side.
The Royals walked off with one win in the three-game set, and the Blue Jays (5-7) headed home feeling better about themselves than had been the case when they left Detroit on Thursday.
"I thought we played great all three games this series," Gibbons said. "It was a good series for us after scuffling in Detroit. Although it would have been nice to win that thing, we're feeling good going home."
In a tight series finale, the Blue Jays had both Oliver and closer Casey Janssen warming up as Toronto batted in the ninth. Had the Blue Jays scored, it would have been Janssen. But Kansas City's Kelvin Herrera set Toronto down in order and on came the 42-year-old Oliver, who has made a living out of retiring left-handed hitters.
Oliver started well by retiring speedster Jarrod Dyson on a fly to center. But before the Blue Jays could even exhale, Getz hit a liner over second that went for a double as right fielder Emilio Bonifacio sprinted over and could only knock the ball down. Then Gordon solved Oliver with his game-winning single.
Kansas City (7-5) had lost its previous six games against Toronto at Kauffman Stadium.
Gibbons credited Getz and Gordon for coming through against the left-hander. Gibbons knows them well from his days as Kansas City's bench coach.
"They are good players, man. I watched those guys for three years. They are scrappy and they battle you," Gibbons said.
Gibbons acknowledged that the Blue Jays have to pick it up offensively. But he was encouraged that the starting rotation seems to be strengthening. Right-hander Brandon Morrow went six innings on Sunday, allowing six hits and two runs.
"He looked like he had a little trouble getting loose in the first, and then he kicked it in," Gibbons said. "I thought he did a great job. It was a well-pitched game on both sides."
Morrow said he didn't have his best stuff, but was pleased that he made quality pitches when he needed to get the big outs.
"On a day like that, you have to focus on hitting your spots," Morrow said.
The Blue Jays broke on top with the aid of an error by Dyson in the first. After Melky Cabrera singled off Kansas City starter Ervin Santana, Jose Bautista singled and both runners advanced when Dyson fumbled the ball in center. Edwin Encarnacion followed with an RBI groundout.
The Royals tied it in the third after Dyson atoned for his defensive mistake with a leadoff triple. He came home on Alcides Escobar's sacrifice fly. Encarnacion's solo homer in the sixth gave Toronto a 2-1 lead, but the Royals responded with Lorenzo Cain's RBI single.
That set the stage for the ninth, when Getz and Gordon got it done.
"You've got to have somebody that's consistent, and Alex is about as good as you can get offensively," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Gordon had been up in the seventh with a runner at third and one out in a tie game, but Brett Cecil struck him out. With another opportunity to be a hero in the ninth, Gordon redeemed himself.
"It felt good," Gordon said. "We didn't swing it too well all day, but Ervin kept us in the ballgame. I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and make something happen."
The Royals were thus able to breathe a sigh of relief that Toronto didn't get away with a series sweep.
"Toronto's a tough team," Yost said. "It's a team that a lot of people predict to win the [AL] East. They've got great pitching over there ... they pitched great in this three-game series."