Holding third AL wild card, Jays open set with Royals

Holding third AL wild card, Jays open set with Royals

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The Toronto Blue Jays will complete a 15-game stretch against teams with losing records when they open a three-game series against the visiting Kansas City Royals on Friday night.

The Blue Jays (77-63) are 7-5 in that span after a 4-2 trip against the Colorado Rockies and Oakland Athletics put them in the final American League wild-card spot, a half-game ahead of the Texas Rangers.

Toronto missed a chance to increase the margin with a 5-2 loss at Oakland on Wednesday to finish the trip.

“It’s fine,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “You keep winning series and that’s what we want to do at this point. Would have liked another one or two on the road trip but you get out of it 4-2, enjoy (the off-day Thursday) and get back after it at home.”

Toronto could get All-Star shortstop Bo Bichette (quadriceps) back from the injured list during the series against the Royals (44-97). He is eligible to return Friday.

Third baseman Matt Chapman (finger inflammation) is not ready to return.

In the absence of Bichette and Chapman, players such as Davis Schneider, Spencer Horwitz and Ernie Clement have come up from Triple-A Buffalo to contribute.

“These guys have come in and not only been able to contribute, but they contribute with how morale is, and they’re a lot of fun to be around and they make the environment in the dugout so much better,” Chapman said. “It’s awesome to have them around.”

“It’s fun,” said Schneider, who hit his seventh home run Wednesday. “I mean, you have to go out there no matter what. Even if you’re 50 games below .500, you still have to give 100 percent. So that doesn’t really change, but it’s fun to be in a playoff race and trying to give your best for your team.”

Toronto is scheduled to start left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (9-5, 3.63 ERA) on Friday.

In six career games against the Royals, he is 1-2 with a 7.30 ERA.

As of Thursday night, the Royals had not announced a starting pitcher for Friday.

Royals outfielder Nelson Velazquez has homered in three consecutive games. He hit his 12th home run of the season Wednesday night in a 6-4 home loss to the Chicago White Sox.

“He’s got huge power,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “It’s all fields. We’ve seen it. This is a big ballpark, one of the biggest in the league. He’s hit balls to all fields here already.”

Despite the loss, the Royals won their first series since Aug. 1-3 against the New York Mets, ending a nine-series drought in which they lost eight and split one.

Since the Royals acquired Velazquez from the Chicago Cubs for reliever Jose Cuas on July 31, the 24-year-old has hit nine homers in 23 games — including eight at home. He is the first Royal to homer in three consecutive games since Salvador Perez did Sept. 14-16, 2021.

Velazquez is earning more playing time.

“If you can hit the ball out of the park consistently, you can change the game with one swing,” Quatraro said. “We saw that (Wednesday). He’s done that numerous times. He’s played a good outfield.

“But his value is going to be driving the ball out of the ballpark, and if he continues to do that at this rate, that’s incredible.”

—Field Level Media

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.