TORONTO -- Luke Maile has never really been known for his bat at the big league level, but don't tell that to the Royals.Maile delivered a pair of key hits, including a walk-off single in the 10th, to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 victory over the Royals in Game
TORONTO -- Luke Maile has never really been known for his bat at the big league level, but don't tell that to the Royals.
Maile delivered a pair of key hits, including a walk-off single in the 10th, to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 victory over the Royals in Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader. Maile has talked a lot in the past about wanting to shed his reputation as a light hitter and so far this season he has been doing just that.
The backup catcher has at least one hit in all of his five games this season and his seven RBIs match the total he put up all of last year. The biggest so far came on Tuesday night when he singled to right field as Kevin Pillar jogged home for the winning run.
"He has played great," manager John Gibbons said. "When we got him, he was basically known for his defense. He struggled last year, but when he came back from a knee injury, I thought he was swinging the bat much better. I think what's helped him is a little bit more playing time."
The Blue Jays are relying on Maile a lot more this season because starting catcher Russell Martin is on a schedule where he only plays two out of every three games. That leaves a lot more time behind the plate available to Maile, and so far he has not disappointed. He has multiple hits in three of his five games and is batting .421.
Maile appears more confident at the plate. He has been using the whole field, as evidenced by Tuesday's pair of singles to right, and he is batting .375 (15-for-30) over his last 13 games dating to last season.
"I'm just trying to get good pitches to hit," Maile said. "I think the biggest thing is I'm swinging at strikes. Last year, I think, it wasn't so much a swing thing, as it was a plate discipline thing. Swinging at strikes is probably reason No. 1 I feel a little better."
The Blue Jays (11-5) took both ends of the doubleheader with an 11-3 win in the opener. This marks the seventh time in franchise history that a club has at least 11 wins in the first 16 games. Last season, Toronto didn't pick up its 11th win until Game 31.
Pillar sparked the extra-innings rally in the nightcap with a one-out single off Royals reliever Brian Flynn. The Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out before Maile sent an 0-1 fastball into right field for the club's first walk-off win of the year.
"It means a lot to me," Maile said. "I've only got about 300 at-bats in the big leagues so I don't have a ton of experience with it. I feel like I have a lot of experience behind the plate, but in big situations, I don't have a ton. It means a lot. Just kind of put it in the reservoir for later, have a little success in late innings."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Maile's first moment: Maile's heroics in the 10th were not the only impact he had on this game. Maile also stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the seventh and continued his hot start with a two-run single off reliever Brad Keller. Maile had seven RBIs all of last season and he already has seven through his first five games in 2018. Devon Travis and Steve Pearce later followed with RBI singles as the Blue Jays rallied for four runs in the seventh to temporarily take a one-run lead.
"I see him using the whole field, shooting balls the other day," Gibbons said. "A couple today, of course, and then he did that the other day. That's big for him because he does everything great behind the plate and now, not only is he getting hits, he's getting big hits."
Trying time for Tepera: The Blue Jays handed the ball to setup man Dennis Tepera in the eighth, but he was unable to preserve a one-run lead. Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar hit a one-out home run to left -- his first of the season. According to Statcast™, the game-tying shot traveled a projected 384 feet and left his bat at 99 mph. It was the third earned run allowed by Tepera in nine innings this season.
"He's one of the top battling guys at the plate," Gibbons said of Escobar. "He just fouls things off, and he got a pitch from Tep that he took out."
The Blue Jays swept a doubleheader for the 22nd time in franchise history. There have only been three doubleheaders in the history of Rogers Centre and they have come away with victories in all six of those games. Toronto won both games against the Angels on July 17, 1989, and both games against the Indians on Oct. 5, 2001.
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Pearce made his first start of the season at first base on Tuesday night and it wasn't long before he was tested. With the bases loaded and none out, Cheslor Cuthbert hit a sharp grounder towards the hole between first and second. Pearce dove to his right to make the grab and then had the presence of mind to make a quick throw home to record the forceout. Joe Biagini then retired the next two batters he faced as the Blue Jays escaped the first with just one run allowed.
Left-hander J.A. Happ will be on the mound at 4:07 p.m. ET on Wednesday in the series finale, while the Royals are set to counter with Ian Kennedy in a game that will be broadcast exclusively on Facebook. Happ originally was scheduled to pitch Sunday's series finale against Cleveland, but he was repeatedly pushed back following three consecutive games that were postponed because of poor weather. He is is 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA in six career starts vs. Kansas City.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.