Royals-Blue Jays Preview
While moving on after being traded sometimes takes time, Troy Tulowitzki has begun doing so in emphatic fashion.
In a few days, Toronto will be hoping David Price does the same.
For now, though, the Blue Jays’ new leadoff hitter will try to brush aside the excitement of Toronto’s latest acquisition and stay hot Thursday night in this opener against a Kansas City Royals team that will unveil one of its big trade chips.
Tulowitzki admitted before Wednesday night’s game versus Philadelphia he was "blindsided" by the trade that sent him north of the border from Colorado a day earlier. The shock didn’t seem to last long, because after striking out in his first at-bat, Tulowitzki hit a two-run homer to snap an 0-for-21 slump. He added two doubles and finished with three runs and three RBIs as Toronto (51-51) rolled to an 8-2 victory.
"That was huge for me to get that under my belt," he said. "I relaxed after that and took better swings."
Tulowitzki hadn’t played at Rogers Centre since 2007, but all five of his hits at Rogers Centre have gone for extra bases – three were home runs.
He’s also gone deep once in three at-bats against Royals starter David Duffy (4-4, 4.03 ERA).
Duffy has gone 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA in six starts since a stint on the disabled list with a sore biceps, and the left-hander has yielded only four runs in 26 1-3 innings covering his last four outings. He limited Houston to one run and three hits in six innings of a 2-1, 10-inning victory Saturday.
"Actually, we knew he was back two starts ago," manager Ned Yost told MLB’s official website. "He’s back looking sharp again."
One of those sharp outings came at the expense of the Blue Jays on July 10 when he allowed four hits and three walks in six innings of a 3-0 victory, his first career win over Toronto. While Duffy has kept Jose Bautista in the ballpark, he hasn’t kept him off the basepaths – the slugger is 4 for 6 lifetime against him.
The Blue Jays made a big splash by landing Tulowitzki and quickly closed on another big name Thursday, landing Price from Detroit for left-hander Daniel Norris and two other prospects. Price, who last pitched Tuesday at Tampa Bay, figures to make his Toronto debut in Sunday’s finale.
The Royals (61-39) enjoy the biggest division lead in the majors at nine games and recently made two moves of their own to bolster their chances of returning to the World Series, acquiring starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and utility player Ben Zobrist. While Cueto will make his first start Friday, Zobrist will start in left field and bat sixth in this game, and the anticipation of his impact negated any bad vibes of Wednesday’s 12-1 loss to Cleveland that snapped a four-game win streak.
"These moves obviously will help our team, and they’re going to give us a lot of flexibility," manager Ned Yost said. "Zobrist, especially, because every player needs breaks the later you go into the season."
Eric Hosmer had two doubles to continue his torrid hitting since the All-Star break. He’s batting .462 with nine extra-base hits and a 1.288 OPS in those 14 games, and that surge stands to continue given he went 3 for 3 against scheduled Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada (7-6, 3.55) in Duffy’s win last month.
Estrada has alternated losses and wins in his last five starts, partly due to inconsistent run support. The Blue Jays have given him 11 runs in the two victories but only one in the three defeats.
The righty failed to help himself Friday at Seattle, giving up five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings of a 5-2 defeat. He was reached for two runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings in losing to Duffy – his lone start against the Royals.
While Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis (shoulder strain) remains out indefinitely, the status of Edwin Encarnacion is uncertain after X-rays on his jammed middle finger were negative.