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Kikuchi Solid as Jays top Royals 4-1

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Editors note, Tom M, it was the Royals they beat.....

It was a battle of the worst and fourth worst ERAs in the American League last year (min 100 innings), as Kris Bubic took on Yusei Kikuchi. Naturally, it was something of a pitchers’ duel, with both guys going five and Kikuchi coming out on top with a 2-1 lead. Of course Kikuchi would be the first Jays starter of the season to secure a win. Baseball has a nice way of reminding us that the world is under no obligation to make sense.

On offence, the Jays were solid. They combined for 11 hits and a couple of walks, and every batter got on base. Matt Chapman remains red hot, raising his batting average to .579 with a 3-4 showing and adding a fifth double to the tally. Collectively, the team still isn’t hitting for much power, but at least they’re making contact and keeping things moving.

Overall, it is a good game, with some positives to build on as they try to get their momentum back in the right direction.

The Jays threatened in the first, with Vlad walking and advancing to 3rd on a Chapman line single, but weren’t able to capitalize. They went quietly in the second as well.

Instead, the Royals struck first with an absolute tank by Franmil Reyes to lead off the bottom of the second. Kikuchi wobbled a little, giving up a line single to the next hitter, Matt Duffy, and launching a wild pitch over Jansen’s head into the netting. His defence was able to pick him up though. First Whit Merrifield made a nice catch on a deep fly that got the first out but advanced Duffy to 3rd. Then Varsho caught a pop fly on the left field line and made a beautiful throw to gun Duffy down at the plate, ending the inning and limiting the damage to one.

The offence was able to level it in the top of the next inning. Bo, Vlad and Chapman hit back to back to back one out singles to tie it at one. They took the lead the following inning, as Merrifield lead off with a double, advanced to third on a Jansen sac fly, and scored on a wild pitch.

Meanwhile, Kikuchi righted the ship and made it through the fifth with little drama. He only struck out two on the night, but also walked only one and was locating relatively well. The much hyped curveball from the spring wasn’t much in evidence, and he leaned on his cutter in the way he often did when he struggled last year, but tonight it all worked pretty well.

Toronto added to the lead in the sixth with their second home run of the season. Varsho hit a deep fly to left that was carried over the wall in the corner by the gale force wind that was blowing from right to left in the outfield all night.

Yimi Garcia came in and worked a clean sixth, with a couple of fly outs and a ground out. He came back for the seventh and got a leadoff pop out from Reyes, but gave up a line single to Duffy after a very questionable non-strike three call. The Royals called in Vinny Pasquantino to hit for Hunter Dozier, so Schneider went to Tim Mayza. Bouncing back from a rough first appearance of the year, Mayza struck out Pasquantino and Jackie Bradley jr. to end the seventh without damage, then Nate Eaton and Nicky Lopez to open the eighth. Erik Swanson came in and got Bobby Witt to fly out to end the inning.

In the top half of that inning, the Jays had pushed the lead to 4-1. Facing Amir Garrett, Chapman laced a double of the wall in right centre, advanced to third on a Varsho bunt single, and scored on a Danny Jansen fly that fell in for a fielder’s choice.

The ninth was mostly uneventful, although Aroldis Chapman, on mop up duty for the Royals, did level first base umpire Vic Carapazza covering first on a Kiermaier ground out. Jordan Roman closed out the win with a 1-2-3 save.

Jays of the Day: Kikuchi (0.182), Mayza (0.132)

Suckage: Nobody

Game 3 goes at 7:40ET tomorrow night. Alek Manoah will try to bounce back from a rough opener, facing Zack Greinke.