With their starting rotation ravaged by injuries, the Toronto Blue Jays need big performances from Henderson Alvarez .
A small adjustment is apparently a reason why that's happening.
Alvarez will try to match a career high by winning a third consecutive start Thursday night when the Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals conclude their season series in Toronto.
Kyle Drabek is done for the season following Tommy John surgery, and it's uncertain when Brandon Morrow (oblique) and Drew Hutchison (elbow) will return, but the Blue Jays' patchwork rotation has been solid the last two games. Recent call-up Brett Cecil and converted reliever Carlos Villanueva allowed three total runs in 12 innings as Toronto (42-40) rebounded from Monday's 11-3 series-opening loss with back-to-back victories.
Since setting a season high in runs Monday, the Royals (36-44) have scored four times.
"Our offense just didn't do it today," left fielder Alex Gordon said after Wednesday's 4-1 loss.
With an eye on their first three-game win streak since a sweep of Philadelphia from June 15-17, the Blue Jays will finish their eight-game homestand with Alvarez (5-6, 4.15 ERA) getting his first look at Kansas City.
The young right-hander has surrendered six runs - four earned - in his two starts since beginning to work off the third-base side of the pitching rubber.
Alvarez had been 0-4 with a 6.26 ERA in his previous seven outings, all in Toronto defeats.
"I think the move to the third-base side has had a lot of effect," manager John Farrell told the Blue Jays' official website after Alvarez threw seven innings of one-run ball in Saturday's 11-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels . "When he is to his armside, he has some heavy sinking action, and that was the case today."
Alvarez, who induced 12 groundball outs against the Angels, won a career-best three consecutive starts April 29-May 10.
He'll face a Royals team that's dropped five of seven on an 11-game road trip that leads up to next week's All-Star game in Kansas City.
The Royals will try to salvage a four-game split in Toronto with Luke Hochevar (5-8, 5.23) on the hill.
After pitching 16 2-3 scoreless innings in his previous two starts - both wins - the right-hander went six innings in Saturday's 5-1 loss at Minnesota, giving up all of the Twins' runs.
His three homers allowed matched a career high.
"Two of those home runs came with two strikes when I'm trying to put a guy away, and I just felt like my curveball didn't have that finish, that bite," Hochevar said.
That could be an issue against Jose Bautista , the major league leader with 27 homers, and the Blue Jays, who are second in baseball with 120.
Toronto, though, can also score without the long ball, with three of its four runs Wednesday coming on sacrifice flies.
Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion will try to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He's batting .424 (14 for 33) during that surge.
Encarnacion is 10 for 26 as Toronto has won six of seven versus Kansas City in 2012. Royals designated hitter Billy Butler is hitless in 24 at-bats in those contests.
|Kansas City Royals|
|June 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Lateral strain in lower left leg|
|June 17, 2012||Chris Getz||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left lateral leg strain|
|June 07, 2012||Felipe Paulino||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|May 26, 2012||Jarrod Dyson||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right hamstring injury|
|May 22, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Left ribcage contusion|
|May 22, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Left ribcage contusion|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|June 16, 2012||Drew Hutchison||60-Day DL||Right UCL sprain|
|June 14, 2012||Kyle Drabek||15-Day DL||Sprained right elbow ligament|
|June 14, 2012||Kyle Drabek||60-Day DL||Torn right elbow ligament|
|June 13, 2012||Brandon Morrow||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|June 12, 2012||Brandon Morrow||Day-to-Day||Strained left oblique|
|June 07, 2012||Rajai Davis||Day-to-Day||Jammed left middle finger|
TORONTO (AP) -- The All-Star break next week is arriving at just the right time for Luke Hochevar .
The Kansas City right-hander won for the third time in four starts after leaving the game with a sprained ankle, Eric Hosmer had three RBIs and the Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-6 on Thursday night.
Hochevar (6-8) gave up two runs and four hits in five innings before leaving with his injury. He sprained his right ankle while covering first base on Colby Rasmus ' infield single in the fifth.
"I hit the bag on the inside and just rolled it in," Hochevar said. "It wouldn't have been bad if it wasn't on the inside. When I was pushing off the rubber it extended it and it was biting me pretty good. It's a good thing we have the All-Star break coming up and I've got eight days (of rest)."
Hochevar stayed in the game and struck out Jose Bautista to finish the inning, but was replaced by Tim Collins in the sixth.
"He was fine but I didn't like the look on his face," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "When he came in (to the dugout) he lobbied to go back out for the sixth but I wasn't going to."
Hochevar, who improved to 4-1 in seven career starts against Toronto, said his ankle isn't so sore that he couldn't pitch again before the break if he was scheduled for another start.
"It's stiff and it's tender and it bother me to push off the rubber but I think it would be fine," he said.
All-Star Billy Butler snapped a season-long 0-for-24 hitless streak against Toronto pitching and Yuniesky Betancourt homered as the Royals won for the second time in six games. Salvador Perez tied a career-high with four hits, all singles, and extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games. Kansas City finished with a season-high 16 hits.
"(Perez) has been a big boost to our club, both defensively and offensively," Yost said.
Collins worked 1 1-3 innings and Greg Holland got the last two outs of the seventh. Aaron Crow got two outs in the eighth but gave up Yunel Escobar 's RBI single before Jose Mijares came on and surrendered a two-run triple to pinch-hitter Ben Francisco before Kelvin Herrera got J.P. Arencibia to ground out to end the threat.
Jonathan Broxton finished in the ninth for his 21st save.
"Each guy we put out there got into a little bit of trouble but we found a way to make it work," Broxton said.
Arencibia hit two home runs for the Blue Jays and Henderson Alvarez (5-7) gave up five runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings. Toronto lost for just the ninth time in 14 meetings against Kansas City dating to last season.
Kansas City opened the scoring with in a five-run, 10-batter third against Alvarez, an inning that started and ended with Jeff Francoeur grounding out to third base.
In between, Alcides Escobar , Hosmer and Billy Butler hit RBI singles. A fourth run scored on Brett Lawrie 's throwing error and Mike Moustakas capped the rally with a sacrifice fly.
"We put that big inning together and that was huge for us," Hosmer said. "We capitalized on the mistakes and that's key for us."
Butler's infield single to third base was his first hit against the Blue Jays this season. Lawrie tried to throw Butler out from foul territory behind third base, but sent his throw into right field, allowing Escobar to score.
"I thought it was going to be a double down the line and clear the bases and (Lawrie) snared it," Butler said. "I could have easily had 10 hits this year against them but I got one."
Arencibia cut it to 5-2 in the third when he followed Kelly Johnson 's leadoff double with a two-run drive into the second deck in left, his first career homer off his former University of Tennessee batterymate.
"Arencibia's been a thorn in my side the last couple of times I've faced him," Hochevar said. "I've got to figure out a way to get him out."
Toronto's catcher went deep again in the seventh with a one-out solo drive, his 13th homer of the season, off Collins. It was his third multihomer game of the season and sixth of his career.
Kansas City made it 8-3 with a three-run eighth against reliever Francisco Cordero . Alex Gordon had an RBI single and two runs scored on Hosmer's base hit to shallow right, with Jarrod Dyson racing around to score from second when the throw went to first base.
Toronto cut it to 8-6 in the bottom half on Escobar's RBI single and Francisco's triple, but Betancourt led off the ninth with a solo homer off Drew Carpenter, his sixth.
"Tack on runs in the eighth and ninth inning were huge for us, obviously," Yost said.
NOTES: The Blue Jays purchased the contract of RHP Sam Dyson from Double-A New Hampshire. Dyson replaces RHP Scott Richmond , who was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday. Dyson made his major league debut in the seventh, pitching to two batters. ... Blue Jays RHP Brandon Morrow (strained left oblique) has reached 150 feet while throwing on flat ground. Morrow has been out since June 12, and there is no timetable for his return. ... The Royals released C Humberto Quintero , who was designated for assignment June 27. ... Earlier Thursday, Broxton lost out to Texas RHP Yu Darvish in fan voting for the final All-Star Game roster spot. ... Toronto released veteran LHP Jamie Moyer after the 49-year-old went 1-1 in two starts at Triple-A.