Royals can't recover after Brooks digs early hole
Right-hander allows seven runs over two-thirds of an inning in Toronto
TORONTO -- Who could predict this one? Two kid pitchers both were making their first Major League start. Anything could happen.
What happened in the very first inning was this: The Blue Jays' kid, Marcus Stroman, whizzed through three up, three down. The Royals' kid, Aaron Brooks, labored through 11 batters and surrendered seven runs.
And that set the tone for the day. The Blue Jays frolicked to a 12-2 victory, ending Kansas City's two-win surge, with 31,652 fans enjoying a sunny Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
"It's tough, coming up and facing a club like this," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You're kind of hoping for a Cinderella story."
But Brooks, summoned from Triple-A Omaha to fill in for Yordano Ventura, couldn't make it through that first-inning nightmare. He gave up two doubles, three singles, hit two batters and walked three for a total of seven runs.
Stroman, who shuffled in from Triple-A Buffalo, in his first inning got Nori Aoki on an infield popup and struck out both Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer. He got through six innings nicely for the victory.
One of Brooks' main strengths has been the ability to throw strikes.
"That's what exactly went wrong, I just couldn't throw strikes for some reason," Brooks said. "I was trying to correct some stuff out there, and it's a little difficult to be out there on that stage and also try to fix what's not going right in the middle of an inning. It just didn't work out."
Brooks' day began with a walk to Jose Reyes, and then he plunked Melky Cabrera. Jose Bautista doubled in the first run and the turmoil was just beginning. And perhaps Brooks' nerves were jangling a bit.
"Not so much nerves," he said. "I was really anxious to get out there. I got in late last night. All night I couldn't really sleep too much, but I was more anxious than a little nervous."
The first eight Blue Jays reached base in one way or another, setting a franchise record for most consecutive batters reaching base to start a game.
By the time that happened, it was 5-0. Then Anthony Gose tapped back to the beaten-up Brooks, who started a home-to-first double play. Now he had a chance to survive. But no, Reyes and Cabrera each smacked an RBI single to make it 7-0, and Yost decided it was time for a new pitcher.
"There's just nothing you can do," Yost said. "We knew we had to try to get as far as we could with him, but it just got tough."
Michael Mariot arrived from the bullpen, threw one pitch and Bautista fouled out to the catcher. The inning was finally over.
In his two-thirds of it, Brooks had made 42 pitches (22 strikes). Combined with the six runs Detroit scored against him in his two-inning big league debut on May 3, the 24-year-old right-hander's ERA reached an unsightly 43.88.
"A lot of pitches were up, got behind a lot of batters, hit a few guys, walked a few guys. The control, the command just wasn't there," catcher Brett Hayes said.
"It's got to be tough to come in and face these guys. Give these guys credit, these guys are big league hitters and he just didn't get it done."
The Blue Jays' novice, Stroman, was not perfect either but close enough. The Royals summoned up just one run against him when Alex Gordon doubled in the second inning and scored on Hayes' single. But that was all.
Stroman, 23, is a Duke University product who was the Blue Jays' first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He had five relief outings for Toronto earlier this season and got banged around himself in the last two. He was stepping in for Drew Hutchison, whose start was moved back by the Jays.
In his six innings, Stroman gave up just the one run on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts. The win made him 2-0 in his rookie season.
"He's got good stuff. He kind of lived up to the reports," Yost said. "Really good fastball, really good curveball, threw some nice changeups. So he threw the ball very well."
Manager John Gibbons was asked if the Blue Jays would give Stroman another start.
"We'd be crazy not to," he replied. "I'm dumb, but not stupid."
Stroman's replacement, Todd Redmond, ran into some trouble in the seventh. After an error and an out, Jarrod Dyson and Pedro Ciriaco each singled to load the bases. Aoki was hit by a pitch, forcing in a run. But Redmond got two outs to strand three runners.
The Royals had to squeeze 7 1/3 innings out of their bullpen.
Mariot ate up 3 1/3 innings for the Royals and was dinged for four runs on six hits, two of them doubles by Adam Lind. Tim Collins succeeded Mariot and worked three scoreless innings. Louis Coleman gave up a run in the eighth.
"Timmy did a phenomenal job getting us through three innings." Yost said. "We only had four innings where we didn't give up a run and Timmy threw three of 'em."
The Blue Jays finished May with a 21-9 record.
"It's been a huge month, 21 wins," said Gibbons, in his second go-round as Toronto manager. "I think in '08 in May we won 20 and had the best record in baseball, and I got fired three weeks later. This has been a good run, but it means absolutely nothing in June."
The Royals were 12-17 in May -- five games under .500 but better than their 8-20 disaster last season.
Maybe they'll find a Cinderella story in June.