Kikuchi’s short day makes for a very long day for Blue Jays in KC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first two games of this series, the Kansas City Royals were unable to buy a point. For the series finale on Wednesday, it felt like they would never stop scoring.

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From back-to-back shutouts, the Royals being an offensive juggernaut against first Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi and then a host of Blue Jays relievers.

The Royals came into the game batting just .235 as a team, but then had 12 hits and eight runs over the next few hours to prove they are still able to string together some good at bats in an 8 -4 win to beat the Jays.

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Admittedly Kikuchi made things considerably easier with first his inability to find the attack zone and then his short workday.

“He just wasn’t good today,” said Jays manager Charlie Montoya. “That’s all I can say. That’s it.”

The first innings have not been kind to Kikuchi for much of the season and Wednesday was no exception.

Even 45 pitches weren’t enough to see him out of that first frame as his day ended with just two outs and three earned runs against on two hits and four walks.

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The trend is not good for Kikuchi or the Jays, as in his last three starts, oldest to last, he only lasted 5 innings, 42/3 innings and yesterday only that 2/3 of an inning.

“I have a few checkpoints within my delivery and unfortunately I just couldn’t get that feeling for my pitches,” Kikuchi said through his interpreter. “I couldn’t get into a nice rhythm, so today it was just really difficult.”

Kikuchi actually struckout two of the first four batters he faced, but those were booked by a pair of walks and he would give up two more free passes and a runscoring double to MJ Melendez.

A two-run single off the bat by Emmanuel Rivera made it 3-0 until Kikuchi walked his fourth batter of the afternoon and Montoya had seen enough at that point and went to his bullpen.

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Trent Thornton did his job to hold off the Royals and buy time for Jays’ office to get back in here.

He gave the Jays 21/3 scoreless innings while scattering three hits.

The Jays tied the score in the third inning when catcher Zack Collins, who made his first start since Danny Jansen went down with that broken bone in his left hand, took Royals starter Brady Singer over the wall for a solo shot.

Cavan Biggio, who came on board with a no-out single then, came by to score on Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s groundout.

The Jays would add one more in the ninth when Collins doubled into the rightfield corner and scored when Biggio hit an infield single with the throw to get through the intended goal first, enabling Collins to walk home.

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However, the Royals themselves were just getting started.

They would score two more in the fourth and add basehits in the fifth, sixth and seventh inning, aided by another lost ball in the sun, this time to Raimel Tapia, resulting in a stand-up triple by heavy footed Salvador Perez.

Tapia, who did open the score for Jays with a homer in the second, had another sunball fall right in front of him in the eighth off the bat by Carlos Santana, but that was with two outs and he stranded on the second leaving no cost the Jays.

There was also a hit batter who then came to score the inning.

All in all, not the freshest afternoon of really any part of the lineup, but the Jays left Kansas City with the series win, so there it was.

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Going forward, the problem will be a way to get Kikuchi through those first inning yips.

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He is well aware of his struggles there and works with his coaches to overcome it.

“I don’t know what the reason is,” Montoyo said of those fights in the first inning. “I know the last time he found a way to regroup and he gave us four innings after throwing a lot of pitches (in the first one). He just couldn’t do it today.”

Kikuchi, correct, took the responsibility of figuring it out.

“I think as a starting pitcher it’s our job to make our adjustments,” he said. “Of course I threw a lot of balls in the first inning, I wasn’t in the zone that often.

“But normally I’m able to bounce back and make my adjustments in the game, but today I wasn’t able to do that and I feel really bad that I let my teammates down today.”

Apologies are nice and all, but even a team as determined to start pitching as the Jays currently have with Hyun Jin Ryu out will look elsewhere if a starter consistently struggles to get out of the first inning only .

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