The Kansas City Royals appear to have solved what had been troubling them during a seven-game losing streak.
The Royals would like to keep the struggling Toronto Blue Jays guessing for one more game as they go for a sweep of their three-game series at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday.
After being outscored 57-18 during their slide, the Royals (11-13) are on the verge of their first three-game home sweep of the Blue Jays in nearly 15 years, as they’ve won back-to-back games in contrasting styles. Kansas City pounded out 14 hits in Friday’s victory before highly touted pitching prospect Luke Hochevar pitched six quality innings in Saturday’s 2-1 win for his first major league victory.
“Fate loves the fearless, so I wanted to come out and pound the strike zone,” said Hochevar, the first overall pick of the 2006 draft. “This is my first major league outing that I haven’t had an unbelievable amount of adrenaline rush. I was able to be myself. Those are my key points - throw strikes, keep the ball down and get ahead.”
Jose Guillen - still batting just .185 after signing a three-year, $36 million contract in December - homered to snap a 1-all tie in the sixth, and shortstop Tony Pena Jr. made a key defensive play in the eighth to preserve the slim margin.
It ended a homerless drought of 41 home at-bats for Guillen, who is just 6-for-42 (.143) at Kauffman Stadium thus far.
The Royals now turn to Gil Meche (1-3, 8.00 ERA) to complete their first three-game home sweep of the Blue Jays since July 2-4, 1993. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 12.54 ERA in two starts at Kauffman Stadium, and has lost three of his last four starts overall. Meche was roughed up for eight runs and nine hits in only 3 1-3 innings of a 15-1 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday.
“I wish I could pinpoint one thing that I’m doing,” said Meche, who is 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 10 lifetime starts and 11 overall appearances against the Blue Jays. “The body feels good. The arm feels fine. I’m just not making pitches when I have to. I’m not getting ground balls when I have to get a double play.”
Toronto (10-15) has lost six in a row, its longest skid since dropping nine straight from May 1-10, 2007. A lack of key hits has plagued the Blue Jays throughout their winless road trip, as they’ve gone 4-for-42 (.095) with runners in scoring position in the five losses.
After winning his first two starts, 23-year-old Jesse Litsch (2-1, 6.16) is trying to regroup from consecutive poor outings. The right-hander was tagged for five runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings at Tampa, absorbing a 6-4 loss on Tuesday.
Litsch’s performance frustrated manager John Gibbons, because the second-year pitcher failed to protect a pair of leads.
“We talked about getting shut-down innings. We needed a couple of them, and he let them right back in,” Gibbons said. “When you’re having trouble scoring runs, that’s huge.”
Litsch was done in by poor defense in his only career start against the Royals, giving up five runs - two earned - in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-2 defeat at Kansas City last Aug. 13.
Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells is 6-for-25 lifetime versus Meche, but three of those hits are homers.