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Kirk powers Jays to another close win over Royals

As Earl Weaver would have it: Pitching, defence, and two run homer

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Royals 2 at Blue Jays 4

For a second straight day, the Blue Jays pulled out a late win pull out a critical 3-1 series win over the depleted Kansas City Royals heading into the All-Star break. It was a kitchen sink approach, requiring pitching, defence, a bloop-and-blast, and a critical miscue in field by the Royals.

it looked like it might be another long day for Jose Berrios, as the Royals got to him for three hits in the first as he struggled to locate his curveball and his change-up didn’t have good shape. Nick Lopez hit a leadoff single up the middle, and with one out Vinnie Pasquantino flared a single up the middle, followed by Edward Olivares just blooping a third single over the infield to plate the run. None of it was very hard contact at least, and he limited the damage with a pair of strikeouts.

Berrios settled in and his curveball looked sharper in the second, but first the Royals did get to him for another run right off the bat. He left an 0-1 fastball up at the zone of the zone and right over the middle of the plate, and Nick Pratto showed why he’s one of the better power hitting prospects in baseball by tomahawking it over the right field bullpen. It was one one of the higher home runs you’ll see, with a launch angle of 43 degrees.

Berrios worked through the middle innings relatively easily, actually facing the minimum over the five innings from the Pratto home run through the end of the 6th inning. A single in the 4th was erased on a double day, and a leadoff single in the 5th was eras on a caught stealing where the runner seemed to be well ahead the throw but a poor slide allowed Danny Jansen to erase him.

Though his 6th inning was good as he looked all day, that didn’t carry over the 7th for Berrios, who seemed to run out of gas. he got ahead of Ryan O’Hearn, but couldn’t finish him off and walked him. he struck out out Nate Eaton, but Pratto punched a single just over Vladdy for a base hit to end his afternoon.

Tim Mayza came in and promptly cleaned up the mess, with a popout to third followed by Jansen backpicking Pratto at first and just barely (perhaps) getting him. Pratto was incredulous, but the Royals didn’t challenge, so it stood. Mayze came back out for the 8th and was again very efficient, sandwiching two strikeouts around a groundout.

For their part, the Jays weren’t able to get much going against Royals starter Kris Bubic in this three turns through the order as he went 7 innings, allowing just five hits and issuing no free passes while striking out four.

The only time the Jays got to him was when the Royals gifted the Jays a couple runs in the 3rd to even the score. After Bradley Zimmer bunted out to start the inning, Santiago Espinal and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. both beat out tappers down the third base line for infield hits to set up Alejandro Kirk. He tapped a proverbial tailor-made double play ball to Bobby Witt Jr. that should have ended the inning, but it went right between his legs to plate the first run. Bo Bichette swung at the next pitch, got jammed but muscled it deep enough for a sac fly to tie the game. And that was basically it other than a few scattered hits.

Wyatt Mills relieved Bubic to start the 9th to face the heart of the order. Vladdy flared the second pitch he saw into centre for a single to once again set the table for Kirk. This time he delivered in a much more substantial way. On a 1-1 count, Mills threw a bad slider that backed-up and didn’t move, but well inside. Working the count full, Mills made the same mistake but this one hung over the inside corner and Kirk launched it into the left field bullpen. It wasn’t the most majestic home run (at just 357 feet and a 96 MPH exit velo), but on this afternoon it was just enough.

Newly minted All-Star Jordan Romano blew away the Royals in a perfect 9th to nail down the save, including striking out Pasquantino leading off to avenge yesterday’s 10th inning home run. Sandwiched around strikeouts, Bichette made a really nice barehand play to just get Olivares. It took a replay as he was initially ruled safe, and probably would have been it he took a full last stride rather than an awkward stutter step.

Jays of the Day: Kirk (+0.384 WPA, though most of would be wiped away if the double play had been turned and he had taken ~0.14 rather than +0.142 on the play) and Mayza (+0.257). Hat tip to Vladdy (+0.069) with the 2-for-4 day.

Suckage: None. Jansen (-0.118) had the number, but doesn’t factor in the caught stealing or pickoff defensively so he doesn’t get one.

After the All-Star break, the Jays pick the schedule back up Friday in Boston at 7:00 EDT.