Blue Jays, facing Royals, seek fifth straight series win

Field Level Media

April 22, 2024 at 11:59 am.

The Toronto Blue Jays have won four straight series as they travel to Kansas City to open a four-game set with the Royals starting Monday evening.

The Blue Jays have ridden Daulton Varsho’s power in winning six of their past eight games. Varsho has accounted for 10 of Toronto’s 35 runs in that span.

“I’m having a better understanding of where my swing’s at and not missing my pitch when it’s there, and having a better plan,” Varsho said after delivering a three-run homer to lead Toronto past San Diego on Saturday. “It’s about being able to slow it down and square it up.”

Varsho has five homers and 11 RBIs in his past nine games.

“His swing is in a really good spot,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “He is really playing at a high level.”

Toronto left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (1-1, 2.08 ERA) will take the mound to open the series.

In seven career starts against the Royals, Kikuchi is 1-2 with a 6.37 ERA, earning the lone win on April 4, 2023, while allowing a run on three hits over five innings. Hunter Renfroe has a home run among three hits in five at-bats against Kikuchi.

Kikuchi won his most recent start with six innings of work against the New York Yankees, allowing a run on four hits on Tuesday. Over his past three starts, Kikuchi has allowed just two runs on 11 hits and five walks while striking out 25.

“He’s got a great mix going,” Schneider said. “Curveball’s been a really big pitch for him for a while now. He’s got weapons. His confidence with every pitch, really, I think is the difference.”

Right-hander Brady Singer (2-0, 1.54 ERA) will start for Kansas City on Monday.

Singer is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three career starts against the Blue Jays, having won the most recent outing on April 3, 2023, while allowing a run on two hits in five innings. Varsho has a home run in five at-bats against Singer.

The Royals have won all four of Singer’s 2024 starts as he has allowed no more than two runs in any outing. All four runs allowed over 23 1/3 innings scored on homers.

Singer’s .163 opponent batting average ranks third in the American League. The development of a split-change has helped him induce more weak contact.

The Royals have exhibited solid hitting in the early season, especially at Kauffman Stadium, where they won nine straight home games before dropping two to the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend. Despite suffering their first shutout of the season on Sunday, their 77 runs scored in 13 home games lead the American League.

Salvador Perez leads the Royals with six homers and 22 RBIs and matched a career best with five RBIs in leading Kansas City’s comeback attempt during Saturday’s 9-7 loss to Baltimore. He has four homers and 12 RBIs in his past eight games.

“He’s swinging the bat well right now, for sure, but how he stays in every game is impressive,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “When we’re down 7-0, he’s in the game. He’s in every pitch, offensively, defensively. His competitiveness and drive is what you want to focus on. He doesn’t take an at-bat for granted.”

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