Royals-Blue Jays Preview

Despite a nagging tightness in his neck, Jose Bautista is still

providing the power the Toronto Blue Jays need to be

successful.

The major league’s home run leader looks to lead the Blue Jays

to a second straight victory and 10th consecutive winning home

series over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.

Since missing Saturday’s game in Oakland with the injury,

Bautista has homered twice in three games. After nearly being hit

by a pitch from Luke Hochevar on Wednesday, Bautista hit a two-run

shot for his 37th of the year to highlight a three-run fourth and

help Toronto (66-63) even the set with a 4-3 win.

Bautista has hit six home runs in 19 August games after failing

to homer in his last 14 contests of July. Four have come while

going 12 for 29 in his last nine games.

“He has that kind of, not only presence in our lineup, but the

ability to do it at key points in the game,” manager John Farrell

told the Blue Jays’ official website.

Bautista looks to help the Blue Jays continue their home

dominance over Kansas City (53-77), which has not won a series in

Toronto since August 2002.

Though scheduled Toronto starter Brett Cecil (4-6, 4.24 ERA) is

0-2 with a 4.00 ERA in his last four starts, his teammates have

scored just six runs with him in the game during that span. The

left-hander allowed a two run-homer plus three other hits and a

season-high five walks in seven innings of a 2-0 loss at Oakland on

Friday.

“That’s my job, hold the club within three runs throughout the

game,” said Cecil, who has gone seven innings in three straight

outings. “Like I’ve always said, I can’t worry about what those

guys do. I just have to keep doing my job.”

In his only appearance versus Kansas City on July 19, 2010,

Cecil gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4, 10-inning

loss.

The Royals counter with Vancouver native Jeff Francis (4-14,

4.89), who will make his first career appearance on Canadian

soil.

“It’s certainly nice to be here but once you get on the mound,

it’s baseball,” Francis told the Royals’ official website. “You

don’t think, ‘Wow, I’m in (Rogers Centre), facing the Jays and my

family’s watching.'”

Francis fell to 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA in his past four starts

after he allowed five runs and a season-high 11 hits in five

innings of a 7-1 loss to Boston on Friday.

“I’m not going to waver on the approach I take,” the left-hander

said. “I’m going to do what I’ve always done. I try to go after

hitters and put the pressure on them to hit the ball.”

The Blue Jays have not hit the ball well off Francis, who went

2-0 with a 2.08 ERA against them with Colorado.

Billy Butler, who had three hits with two RBIs on Wednesday for

the Royals, has batted .404 (19 for 47) with three homers and 12

RBIs in his last 12 games.