Blue Jays vs. Royals series preview: MLB’s worst team entertains Toronto

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ross Stripling delivers during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Houston Astros, Friday, April 22, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

The Toronto Blue Jays begin a 10-game stretch of games against some of the worst teams in the American League when they face the squad at the bottom of the major league standings – the Kansas City Royals – on Monday in Missouri. 

Of course, games aren’t won on paper – otherwise Toronto wouldn’t have dropped two of three against a Minnesota Twins team missing many key players because of injury and COVID-19 issues this past weekend. 

Here’s a look at the three-game series against the Royals. 

Probable Pitchers 

• Monday, 8:10 p.m. ET / 5:10 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE): Toronto RHP Ross Stripling (1-1, 4.22 ERA) vs. Kansas City LHP Daniel Lynch (2-4, 4:81 ERA) 

• Tuesday, 8:10 p.m. ET / 5:10 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE): Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (6-1, 1.98 ERA) vs. Kansas City RHP Brad Keller (1-6, 4.15 ERA) 

• Wednesday, 2:10 p.m. ET / 11:10 a.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (2-2, 3.91 ERA) vs. Kansas City RHP Brady Singer (2-1, 4.15 ERA)

Latest on the Blue Jays

After winning eight in a row, the Blue Jays (31-22) cooled down over the weekend, dropping two of three against the shorthanded Twins at Rogers Centre. 

The Blue Jays almost staged an improbable rally in the series finale, closing an 8-3 deficit to 8-6 and then getting two more men on in the bottom of the ninth before the Twins finally ended the last-ditch threat. 

With Kevin Gausman unable to get out of the fourth inning in a rare shaky start (he wasn’t helped when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez dropped balls in the sun in the first inning while not wearing sunglasses), Toronto had to use five arms out of the bullpen. That’s not an ideal scenario for a team using its long man – Stripling – as a starter on Monday and likely for at least several weeks to come with Hyun Jin Ryu on the injured list. 

Latest on the Royals

The Royals (17-35) gave up four runs in the final two innings to drop a 7-4 decision to visiting Houston on Sunday, giving the Astros a 2-1 series victory. 

Seven-time all-star Salvador Perez had a big game for the Royals, going 2-for-3 with a home run, a double and three RBI. 

Perez also hit a homer and double in Saturday’s 6-0 win, snapping a five-game losing streak and a personal 0-for-22 streak. Veteran outfielder Andrew Benintendi left the game in the ninth inning with a calf injury. 

It figures to be a small turnout in Kansas City for a Monday night visit by Toronto, considering an announced crowd of just 12,776 took in the Sunday matinee versus Houston.

Wrong Direction

Since beating the Blue Jays in a memorable 2015 ALCS and then winning the World Series, the Royals have been, well, not very good. The Royals haven’t reached the playoffs since that championship year (Perez was the World Series MVP) and their best record in that span was 81-81 in 2016. 

Catcher Comparison

Heading into the season, you might think a subplot of this series would be Guerrero Jr. going head to head against Perez, who led the league in RBI last year and tied the Blue Jays first baseman for the home run lead. 

But the Royals catcher/designated hitter, like Guerrero, has been inconsistent this year, especially before this past turnaround weekend – he is batting .199 with eight homers and 22 RBI while striking out 48 times and walking just six times on the season (166 at-bats). 

Those numbers, of course, aren’t nearly as good as the stats being put up by surging Blue Jays catchers Danny Janssen (.241 with seven homers, 12 RB, 10 strikeouts, three walks in just 54 at-bats) and Alejandro Kirk (.307 with five homers, 16 RBI, 20 walks, 14 strikeouts in 140 at-bats) 

Last Year 

The Blue Jays lost three of four in Kansas City last April before sweeping the Royals in a three-game series in July and August in Toronto’s first games at Rogers Centre since 2019 due to COVID-19.

Stripling the Starter

Stripling makes his sixth start of the season — and first since May 7 on Monday. He has yet to go past the fifth inning. 

Stripling was the starter for last year’s first game back at Rogers Centre against the Royals, going 5.1 innings while allowing two runs on four hits to pick up the win. 

Pitching Problems

The Royals have an AL-worst 5.12 team ERA this season. The bullpen also has been busy recently with the club using four relievers Friday, four Saturday and five Sunday. 

Up Next

The Blue Jays conclude their run of four consecutive series against AL Central foes with a three-game weekend set in Detroit against the Tigers after an off day on Thursday. 

Toronto then returns home for four games against the Baltimore Orioles. 

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