Published July 17, 2022

Toronto Blue Jays beat shorthanded Royals 4-2 to claim the four-game series

Jays enter the all-star break at 50 and 43

By Tim Wharnsby in Toronto

Before he boarded a plane for Los Angeles, Alejandro Kirk continued to demonstrate why he will be among the best at the MLB All-Star game at Dodger Stadium this week.

The Toronto Blue Jays' 23-year-old first-half surprise standout accounted for three runs, including a two-run blast to left in the eighth inning, in his team's 4-2 win against the shorthanded Kansas City Royals (36-56) on Sunday.

Kirk reported his 11th homer was the result of Royals reliever Wyatt Mills (0-1) hanging a slider on a 3-2 count to provide the Blue Jays (50-43) with their third win in a row and fifth in six games before 36,681 at Rogers Centre.

The game-winning hit improved Kirk's batting average to .315, fifth in the American League and his on-base plus slugging percentage to a seventh-best .882.

"I'm not surprised because when you work as hard as I did in the off-season and spring training, it pays off," Kirk said.

"He's fun to pencil in there," Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. "He's had an unbelievable first half here and is deserving of the all-star selection. He's been as steady as they come. He's been awesome."

Kirk's parents will venture from his hometown of Tijuana, Mexico, to meet him in Los Angeles for the all-star game festivities. Kirk also will be joined in Los Angeles by teammates Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alek Manoah, Santiago Espinal and Canadian closer Jordan Romano.

Espinal was announced as a replacement for injured Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve on Saturday, and Romano was added on Sunday. The Markham, ON native, earned his 20th save against the Royals with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

"I'm grateful they will be there with me," Kirk said when asked about the late additions of Espinal and Romano to the American League side.

Although the Blue Jays beat up the struggling Royals, whose situation was made worse because 10 regulars stayed home because of their COVID-19 unvaccinated status, Kirk and Co. were feeling good about their five-win, six-game homestand after losing nine of 10 games.

"We have to build on what we did this past week," said starter Jose Berrios, who pitched 6 ⅓ innings, surrendering two runs on seven hits, seven strikeouts and a walk.

Reliever Tim Mayza (3-0) replaced Berrios and was perfect in his 1 ⅔ innings to help the Blue Jays reach the 50-win mark before the break.

"It looks better than 40 something, right?" Schneider said. "Fifty is a good number. When you look at the expectations of our team, you can say, okay, we're getting to where we need to go a little bit as we take a little break."

The Blue Jays scored two unearned runs in the third inning to pull even. Espinal and Guerrero reached base with back-to-back one-out infield hits.

Espinal scored when Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. muffed Kirk's slow-rolling grounder. Guerrero took advantage of the error to move to third and scored on Bo Bichette's sacrifice fly to right field.

The Royals scored a run in each of the first two innings. Leadoff hitter Nicky Lopez singled to centre, advanced to second on Vinnie Pasquantino's one-out single and scored Edward Olivares' bloop single to centre.

Kansas City first baseman Nick Pratto led off the second inning with a blast to right field for his first career homer.

Lopez, Pasquantino, Pratto and Witt were among six rookies in the Royals' starting lineup because of the unvaccinated group that standouts Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi.

Royals lefty Kris Bubic lasted seven innings. He held the home team to five hits with four strikeouts and two unearned runs. Toronto catcher Danny Jansen had a solid defensive outing. He caught Freddy Fermin trying to steal second in the fifth inning and picked off Pratto on first base two innings later.

Banner image: Toronto Blue Jays’ designated hitter Alejandro Kirk runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run, scoring Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in eighth inning American League baseball action against the Kansas City Royals in Toronto, Sunday, July 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jon Blacker


After the all-star break, the Blue Jays resume play on Friday at Fenway Park to begin a three-game set with the Boston Red Sox.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2022.

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