With modest winning streaks, Royals face Blue Jays

MLB

The Kansas City Royals will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays for the beginning of a four-game series starting Thursday night, with both teams looking to keep mini-streaks alive.

The Royals are coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels. Brad Keller turned in his first solid start of the year on Wednesday, and it led to Kansas City’s second consecutive win.

The Blue Jays also have won two straight, the second victory coming thanks to a Bo Bichette walk-off home run against the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

Bichette has hit in 11 straight games and turned in his second game of the season with two home runs in the 5-4 win on Wednesday. Still, he entered the game with just six extra-base hits this season.

“I’m just starting to heat up,” Bichette said after the game. “I was grinding for a while and staying alive. I think that’s part of baseball. You fight until you start feeling good. I feel good. I know I have all the time in the world. I’m not worried about fastballs getting by me, so that’s a good feeling to have.”

The home run has been a big part of the formula for the Blue Jays this season. They’re tied for third in the American League with 16 homers. But their pitching has been solid, too, with their staff tied for second in the league with a 3.08 team ERA.

The Blue Jays haven’t announced a starter for Thursday’s game.

The Royals will give another start to right-hander Jakob Junis (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who turned in a stellar performance in a spot start against Cleveland on April 7. He was scheduled to pitch two or three innings, but he threw five shutout frames in the Indians’ 4-2 win. He didn’t figure in the decision after giving up one hit and striking out six. For the season, he hasn’t allowed a run in seven innings and has given up just three hits and struck out nine.

“They were swinging early and often,” Junis said after his start against the Indians. “Just attacking the strike zone with my cutter, my slider and taking out of the zone when needed was really the name of the game.

“I’ve always been one to attack the strike zone and not have very many walks and really force the issue. I’ve been hurt with that in the past, but luckily now with the cutter, it’s missing (bats) and helped me get a lot of quick outs.”

Junis has a 1-1 record and 3.66 ERA in three career starts against Toronto.

If he can turn in another good outing, it will be the third straight for the Royals. Keller struggled in his first two starts, but he allowed just one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings against Los Angeles on Wednesday. Keller struck out Mike Trout and Jared Walsh to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning.

Keller’s effort followed six innings of one-run ball by Danny Duffy on Tuesday.

Royals manager Mike Matheny was pleased, but not surprised, by Keller’s performance.

“That was the Brad Keller we were hoping to see,” Matheny said. “That was fun to watch, and I just kind of had an idea that he was going to come out aggressive and trust his stuff.”

–Field Level Media

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