Blue Jays-Royals Preview
The revamped starting staff of the Toronto Blue Jays has been a major flop. In fact, its only win didn't come from one of their big-name newcomers.
It was turned in by No. 5 starter J.A. Happ, who looks to give Toronto a positive ending to a dismal run through the rotation and help prevent the Kansas City Royals from notching their best 10-game start in a decade Friday night.
As the disappointing Blue Jays (3-6) open a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium in the AL East basement, the Royals are atop the Central and riding a four-game winning streak.
While Kansas City's starters have not allowed more than four runs in any outing, their Toronto counterparts have given up more than four in four straight starts. R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson all failed to get through five innings while compiling a 14.79 ERA as opponents hit .458.
Blue Jays starters are 1-4 overall with a major league-worst 7.59 ERA.
"We definitely need a good outing pretty soon to help the bullpen, and things aren't going to get much easier in Kansas City," manager John Gibbons said.
The last time Gibbons saw a starter provide a good performance was Saturday when Happ yielded one hit and struck out six in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-0 victory over Boston.
The left-hander is relying more on his changeup, hoping for better results after going 16-26 with a 5.08 ERA over the past two seasons.
"I used to use it quite a bit and I'm trying to get to the point where I find that comfort zone with it," Happ said.
Kansas City seems plenty comfortable, ranking among the AL's best in batting average (.281), fielding percentage (.991) and ERA (3.20).
The Royals (6-3) have had no more than six victories through 10 games since opening 9-1 in 2003 - the last year they had a winning record. That's also the last time they won their first three home games, something they achieved this week with a sweep of Minnesota. Kansas City opened 0-10 at Kauffman Stadium in 2012.
"That's in the past," manager Ned Yost said. "That's not in our mind anymore. We remember it, but this is a new team. It's nice to be 6-3."
Yost's club now looks to record its longest win streak since a seven-game run in September 2011.
The last Royals starting pitcher not to win is taking the mound, though Luis Mendoza was hardly to blame. He surrendered one run and two hits over six innings while striking out seven at Philadelphia on Saturday, when the bullpen blew a two-run lead in a 4-3 defeat.
"I've been working on my breaking pitches," Mendoza said. "That's how I got strikeouts (Saturday)."
His career high of nine strikeouts came the last time he faced the Jays, when he gave up three runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss July 4. Mendoza had a 6.06 ERA in his previous four games against them.
Happ won his lone outing against the Royals while with Houston on June 18, throwing six innings of two-run ball.
Toronto won six of eight in last season's series, including a four-game sweep in Kansas City.