One week ago, it looked like the Kansas City Royals were on their way to finishing August in disastrous fashion.
As they get set to play their final game of the month, a solid stretch has kept them from completely falling out of the wild-card race.
Kansas City looks to end August with its sixth win in seven games as it continues a three-game road series against the last-place Toronto Blue Jays.
The Royals (69-65) entered August on an eight-game win streak and got off to a solid start to the month with nine wins in 12 games. However, they went on to drop 10 of 12, including a 7-2 loss to Washington last Saturday for their seventh straight defeat.
Kansas City turned things around with a 6-2 win over the Nationals on Sunday, and won its next four before losing 3-2 in Friday night's opener.
The Royals had a chance to tie it in the ninth inning, putting runners on first and second with one out. Pinch-hitter George Kottaras then lined out to center and Alex Gordon grounded out, with second baseman Ryan Goins diving for the ball and throwing from his knees.
"This one's not overly frustrating," manager Ned Yost said. "You don't ever want to lose at this time of year, but it was a good game. We fought to the end, it just didn't happen."
Jeremy Guthrie (13-10, 4.19 ERA) takes the mound for Kansas City as he tries to get back on track. The right-hander pitched a four-hitter in a 13-0 victory over Minnesota on Aug. 5, winning his fourth straight start, but things have come unraveled over his last four performances.
He lost three straight starts while posting a 6.63 ERA before pitching five shaky innings in an 11-1 win over Tampa Bay in a makeup game Monday. Guthrie allowed one run over five innings but gave up six hits and walked three, limiting the damage with a pair of key strikeouts to end the third and fourth innings.
"We had a couple of tough situations, and I was really pleased to get out of them," Guthrie told the Royals' official website. "I don't think I pitched great today, but it's almost like we won in spite of me."
Guthrie is 3-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 19 starts against the Blue Jays, last facing them Sept. 9, 2011, when he allowed three hits in seven innings of a 2-0 win in Toronto while with Baltimore.
He'll be opposed by R.A. Dickey (10-12, 4.39), who won for the first time in four starts his last time out. The right-hander allowed two runs over 6 1-3 innings to beat the New York Yankees 5-2 on Monday.
Dickey entered that matchup with a 5.79 ERA at home, and he was 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in his previous four starts at Rogers Centre.
"I have to do it in the right place in this park," he told the Blue Jays' official website. "I threw some good (knuckleballs) when I wanted to throw some good ones. ... If I'm able to go up and down and that middle one is far and few between, then it's going to be a decent night out."
Dickey had a decent performance in Kansas City on April 13, allowing one run over 6 1-3 innings to win 3-2 in his first start against the Royals since 2004.
Toronto (61-74) has won four of five following a seven-game skid.
|Kansas City Royals|
|August 13, 2013||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 11, 2013||Miguel Tejada||60-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|August 09, 2013||Lorenzo Cain||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|August 04, 2013||Salvador Perez||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 04, 2013||David Lough||Day-to-Day||Right quad tightness|
|August 04, 2013||Salvador Perez||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 21, 2013||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left hip bone bruise|
|August 21, 2013||Maicer Izturis||60-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Maicer Izturis||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|August 17, 2013||Jose Reyes||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|August 10, 2013||Juan Perez||60-Day DL||Torn UCL ligament, left elbow|
TORONTO (AP) -- Aaron Crow lost command of the strike zone at the worst possible time for the Kansas City Royals .
Crow issued consecutive bases-loaded walks during Toronto's three-run eighth inning, sending the Royals to a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday.
"Throwing eight straight balls, it's a terrible way to lose a game," Crow said.
The Royals, who trailed Tampa Bay by 6 1/2 games for the second AL wild-card slot at the beginning of the day, lost their second straight following a five-game winning streak.
Kansas City failed to capitalize on a strong start by right-hander Jeremy Guthrie , who allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings.
"Tremendous game from him," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was still strong going into the eighth inning."
Rather than stick with Guthrie, who was at 92 pitches, Yost turned it over to his relief corps, who came in with an AL-best 2.56 ERA and had allowed just one run in their past 14 2-3 innings.
"My mindset is, `OK, we've got a one-run lead, we've got the best bullpen in the American League, let's get three outs and get to (closer Greg Holland ),"' Yost said. "It just didn't work out, we couldn't get it done."
Instead, the Blue Jays batted around while scoring three unearned runs against four relievers. Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar helped the Blue Jays with a key error.
Pinch hitter Munenori Kawasaki led off with a single against Kelvin Herrera (5-7), and went to second on a bloop hit by Jose Reyes . Will Smith came on to face Ryan Goins , who hit a potential double-play grounder that Escobar couldn't handle, allowing Kawasaki to score from second.
Escobar said his line of sight was blocked by Kawasaki on the crucial play.
"I make that play all the time," Escobar said. "I didn't see the ball, that's why I missed that. The guy blocked me."
Edwin Encarnacion walked to load the bases and Crow came on to face pinch hitter Mark DeRosa , who struck out on three pitches. Brett Lawrie and Rajai Davis each followed with four-pitch walks, giving the Blue Jays a 4-2 lead.
"We can't be coming in and doing that at this time of year," Yost said. "We've got to command the ball a little better in these crucial situations. Aaron does, anyway."
Upset at the ball four call to Davis, Yost was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Will Little when he came out to replace Crow with Tim Collins , who retired pinch hitter J.P. Arencibia to end the inning.
"I'd just seen enough," Yost said. "You don't miss a pitch in a crucial situation like that. If he throws a ball, OK. But I think the replay will show it was definitely a strike."
Yost, who was ejected for the first time this season, also argued with Little over a call at first base in Friday's 3-2 loss.
The late rally made a winner of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (11-12), who allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings.
"I changed speeds quite a bit today," Dickey said. "I was able to keep the slower knuckleball down and get some outs with it. Anytime you can add and subtract speed in the strike zone, you're going to have a better chance of your opponent mis-hitting balls."
Casey Janssen finished for his 26th save in 28 chances, with pinch runner Chris Getz thrown out trying to steal second for the final out.
Kansas City's Eric Hosmer went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI in his 50th multihit game of the season. Among AL players, only Mike Trout and Adrian Beltre have more.
Royals outfielder Alex Gordon had two assists, throwing out Goins at third in the first and getting Josh Thole at second in the seventh. Gordon boosted his major league-leading total to 14. It's the fifth time he's had two assists in a game.
Kansas City opened the scoring in the second. Salvador Perez drew a one-out walk, moved up on Jarrod Dyson 's single and scored on a base hit by Escobar.
The Royals made it 2-0 in the third when former Blue Jays infielder Emilio Bonifacio led off with a triple and scored on Hosmer's single through the left side.
The Blue Jays ran into another out on the bases in the third when Reyes was thrown by right fielder David Lough as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Escobar made a diving tag to retire Reyes for the second out.
Toronto broke through against Guthrie in the seventh when Rajai Davis hit a two-out double and scored on Josh Thole 's single. The inning ended when Gordon threw out Thole trying to stretch his hit into a double.
"We're lucky that didn't come back to bite us," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
NOTES: The Blue Jays will activate RHP Steve Delabar (shoulder) and RHP Dustin McGowan (shoulder) off the disabled list Sunday. ... Goins' first-inning single gave him an eight-game hit streak to start his career, matching Jesse Barfield 's 1981 Blue Jays record. ... Encarnacion's fourth-inning single was the 1,000th hit of his career.