Rolen homered and drove in two runs, Alex Rios collected four hits and scored three times and the Blue Jays defeated the Kansas City Royals 5-2 on Sunday.
Rios, who raised his average to .330, scored the go-ahead run in the fifth from first base on Rolen’s single to left. Rios was waved home when Royals left fielder Jose Guillen threw to second base instead of hitting the cutoff man.
“That’s a big play in the game,” Rolen said. “That’s an easy one to shut down and for him to keep hustling, that’s how you win ball games. We’ve found a lot of ways to lose ball games.
“We had a chance to win the series here and let a couple of games get away,” Rolen added. “That’s the stuff we need to probably buckle down on a little bit and have a mindset to win the series. We’ll turn the page, go to Boston and hopefully win that series.”
Rios, who led off the game with a triple and scored on Gil Meche’s wild pitch, was glad to see third base coach Marty Pevey wave him home on Rolen’s single.
“When I saw it was going to be a hit, I just kept going at full speed. That’s the only way I was going to score,” Rios said. “When he saw I had a chance to score, he just told me to keep going.”
Said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons: “The way that play is made is that Rios had got to be scooting all out or you can’t do that. He can do that. God blessed him some awfully good legs.”
Rolen, who was activated Friday from the disabled list after fracturing his right middle finger in spring training, homered in the first and has four RBIs in three games. The Blue Jays are only 5-for-49 with runners in scoring position on this trip.
“I knew we were leaving some guys out there,” Rolen said. “It is a story, but not always the story.”
The Blue Jays committed three errors—including two by pitcher Jesse Litsch — to help the Royals tie the score with two runs in the third inning.
Ross Gload hit a one-out single and Tony Pena Jr. followed with a comebacker that Litsch had trouble picking up. Litsch then fired the ball past first baseman Lyle Overbay, allowing the runners to each move up. David DeJesus then singled to center, scoring both.
“I take pride in my fielding and that stuff can’t happen,” Litsch said.
Litsch (3-1), who had given up 17 hits and nine earned runs in 8 1-3 innings his previous two starts, picked up the victory. He limited the Royals to two runs, one unearned, on five hits in seven innings, with no walks and four strikeouts.
“I worked on my sinker the last four days and today it helped me out of some jams and keeping them off balance,” Litsch said. “Being able to use both sides of the plate with command is key. That’s what I’ve been working on and that’s what I need to keep progressing.”
Left-hander Jesse Carlson worked the ninth to pick up his first save.
Meche (1-4) took the loss and threw 129 pitches, which matched his career high and is the most thrown by a big league pitcher this season—all in just 6 2-3 innings.
“Overall it was better,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “He’s still fighting himself a little. He’s getting frustrated with himself, not locating as good as he would like to.”
In the second year of a five-year, $55 million contract, Meche has a 7.22 ERA in six starts while allowing 43 hits in 33 2-3 innings.
“It was definitely an improvement,” Meche said. “I felt a little more comfortable out there. It’s just a matter of repeating pitches. It was still not the quality start I’m looking for, but I need more games like this one.”
The Blue Jays padded their lead with a two-run ninth, which included back-to-back doubles by John McDonald and Rios and a throwing error by Pena.
Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas snapped an 0-for-18 slump with a seventh inning single, while center fielder Vernon Wells singled in the eighth to end his own 0-for-15 drought. … Rios is 10-for-13 off Meche. …The Royals are 1-12 when trailing after the sixth inning.