Saunders leads Blue Jays to sweep with 4-2 win over Royals
TORONTO (AP) Michael Saunders gave his All-Star candidacy a boost with another big game for the Blue Jays.
One of five AL candidates for the Final Vote, Saunders hit a solo home run in the fourth inning and singled home the winning run in the eighth as Toronto completed a three-game sweep of Kansas City, beating the Royals 4-2 on Wednesday.
''He should be in the All-Star Game,'' Toronto starter Marcus Stroman said. ''He's the reason we won today.''
Stroman (7-4) was no slouch himself, allowing two runs in eight innings to win for the first time in four starts.
''That's as good as you're ever going to see him,'' manager John Gibbons said. ''He had everything working.''
Roberto Osuna finished for his 17th save as Toronto won its season-high fifth straight, while its 2015 ALCS opponent dropped its fourth in a row. Kansas City has scored nine total runs in that span.
''Offensively, there's just not much going on right now with us,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-out double off Kelvin Herrera (1-2) in the eighth and scored when Saunders lined a single to center. Russell Martin followed with an RBI double.
Saunders opened the scoring with a one-out drive off Ian Kennedy in the fourth, his 16th.
''He did a pretty good job of hitting that one,'' Kennedy said. ''He's seeing the ball really well. That's the reason he's on the Final Vote. He's having a good year.''
Saunders raised his average to .296. He's three home runs shy of his career high, set with Seattle in 2012.
''He's had a tremendous year,'' Gibbons said.
The homer was the 21st allowed by Kennedy this season, tied for second-most in the majors. Kennedy has allowed at least one homer in seven consecutive starts, giving up 13 in that span.
Stroman was perfect through five innings, throwing 44 pitches. Kansas City didn't hit a ball out of the infield until Paulo Orlando flied to center to end the fifth.
Brett Eibner broke Stroman's streak when he walked on a 3-2 pitch to begin the sixth. The next batter, Alcides Escobar, broke up the no-hitter and ended Stroman's shutout bid with an RBI triple.
Backing up third after the triple, Stroman made a diving stop to keep Escobar at third. He retired the next three batters to escape the jam, letting out a yell after striking out Whit Merrifield to end the inning.
''I think the play of the game was (Stroman) backing up that triple,'' Kansas City's Eric Hosmer said. ''It really stopped a lot of momentum. When he got out of that inning, it definitely gave them a boost of energy.''
Toronto led 2-1 on Ezequiel Carrera's RBI single in the fifth, but Eibner tied it 2-all when he connected off Stroman in the eighth.
Kennedy allowed two runs and four hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out 10, one shy of his season high.
The retractable roof was open when the game began but started to close during the top of the sixth. It was still sliding shut when a light rain began falling in the bottom of the seventh. Play was not interrupted.
LONG BALL LEDGER
Saunders' home run was Toronto's 128th, second in the majors behind Baltimore (131).
Royals: DH Kendrys Morales (back) was held out of the starting lineup.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada was placed on the 15-day DL, one day after being named to the All-Star team for the first time. Estrada will still attend the game in San Diego but won't be able to pitch. RHP Drew Hutchison will start for Toronto in the opener of a four-game series against Detroit on Thursday. RHP Bo Schultz was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (4-1, 3.11) starts as Kansas City returns home for a four-game series against Seattle. He's 0-1 with a 1.69 ERA in five games against the Mariners, including three starts. LHP James Paxton (2-3, 4.24) starts for Seattle.
Blue Jays: Hutchison is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two games, one start. He went 6-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 15 starts at Buffalo. RHP Justin Verlander (8-6, 4.11) starts for Detroit.