KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals had been 0-29 when trailing after eight innings. That changed Friday night.
Whit Merrifield hit a two-run, two-out double that capped a four-run rally in the ninth inning, and the Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 on Friday night to reach .500 for the first time since April.
“You always want to be up with the game on the line,” Merrifield said. “That’s why you play the game. It’s not always going to happen the way it did tonight, but it is fun when it does.”
With their 10th win in 12 games, the Royals improved to 36-36. They were 6-6 before play on April 20, then went on a nine-game losing streak that night and dropped as low as 10-20, seven games out of first place. They trail AL Central-leading Cleveland by three games.
Toronto took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and extended it when Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak hit RBI singles off Joakim Soria (4-2).
Salvador Perez doubled with one out in the bottom half against Ryan Tepera, took third on a wild pitch, and Brandon Moss walked with two outs.
Alcides Escobar greeted Aaron Loup (2-1) with an RBI single, and Alex Gordon hit a run-scoring single on the first pitch from Jason Grilli. Ahead 3-1 in the count, Merrifield doubled on a hop to the left-field wall, and Gordon scored easily from first, crossing the plate with a headfirst slide.
“It’s frustrating,” Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. “It hasn’t happened too often in my career, but every time it happens it stings. You’re almost like standing there saying ‘I can’t believe that just happened.’ But they earned it.”
The Royals have 21 comeback victories this season.
“We’ve said all year we have a team that is definitely capable of making a run,” Moss said. “I don’t think we pay attention to come-from-behind or whether we get out to a lead earlier or whatever. We’re just trying to win a ballgame.”
Royals rookie Jake Junis gave up two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ allowed one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“This game can rip your heart out, and tonight was one of those nights,” Happ said.
Toronto opened a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Troy Tulowitzki hit an RBI double and scored on a wild pitch. Perez singled in a run in the seventh.
RHP Chris Young, an integral part of the Royals’ 2015 World Series championship team, was designated for assignment after posting a 7.50 ERA through 14 appearances this season. The Royals signed RHP Neftali Feliz, who was released Monday by Milwaukee. He was 1-5 with a 6.00 ERA for the Brewers and eight for nine in save chances.
BLUE JAYS MOVES
Toronto selected the contract of OF Ian Parmley from Triple-A Buffalo, where he was hitting .289 with 11 stolen bases, and started him in right field. He went 0 for 3 with a sacrifice bunt in his debut. They optioned RHP Cesar Valdez to the Bisons. … 2B Devon Travis (damaged right knee cartilage) was transferred to the 60-day DL.
Blue Jays: Donaldson, scratched Thursday with a sore left knee, was back at third base and went 1 for 5 with three strikeouts. … LF Steve Pearce, who bruised his right knee banging into the wall Wednesday, did not play for the second consecutive game.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (right oblique strain) is to begin a minor league rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Omaha.
Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada and Royals LHP Jason Vargas, both Long Beach State alums, are scheduled to start Saturday.