Fifth inning starts trouble for Bailey, Royals

TORONTO — It ended in a 7-5 walk-off loss for the Royals, but Saturday’s game at Rogers Centre really turned for Homer Bailey with one big blow in the fifth inning when Cavan Biggio launched a go-ahead grand slam, the culmination of a long inning that Kansas City couldn’t seem to escape.

Up until Bailey found trouble in the fifth, he was cruising along fairly comfortably, and the Royals held the advantage after Blue Jays’ starter Marcus Stroman exited in the top half with a left shoulder pectoral cramp.

A leadoff walk to open the bottom half was Bailey’s fourth of the game, though, and it snowballed.

“We were just talking about that [walk],” Bailey said after the loss. “That was probably the one that started things off in the wrong direction, and it just kind of unfolded from there.”

After allowing a single to Eric Sogard, Bailey eventually found himself with runners on second and third, two outs and a 4-1 lead still in hand. With Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at the plate, fresh off back-to-back two-homer games, Bailey understandably took a cautious approach that manager Ned Yost praised following the game.

Bailey started Gurriel with five splitters in a row that topped out at 84.8 mph to work a full count and, with his first slider of the at bat, missed low to load the bases for Biggio.

“He’s probably their hottest hitter right now,” Bailey said. “I don’t know if he made the All-Star team or potentially will, but you kind of just have to be careful when you don’t want that guy to beat you.”

With the bases loaded, Biggio got the fastball treatment, as Bailey cranked it back up over 94 mph three times. The final pitch, a 2-1 fastball, caught too much of the plate and Biggio didn’t miss it. He sent it over the wall in left-center field just past the outstretched glove of Billy Hamilton, who scaled the wall hoping to save the day.

In the bigger picture, the tough fifth inning was the first trouble that Bailey has found in some time. Bailey’s last three starts leading into Saturday had been excellent, with the veteran right-hander allowing just one run over 19 innings of work while striking out 17.

Danny Jansen eventually walked it off for the Blue Jays in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run home run to left field off of right-hander Scott Barlow.

Manufacturing late

The Royals tied things up in the top of the ninth when they chipped away following a leadoff single by Hamilton.

After a Whit Merrifield walk and a well-placed bunt by Nicky Lopez, Alex Gordon brought Hamilton home with a sacrifice fly to left field for his 50th RBI of the season.

Maldonado enjoying his time in Toronto

Martín Maldonado went deep again on Saturday in Toronto, his second home run in as many games and third in the last nine. Maldonado went to the opposite field on a slider from Stroman, which left his bat at 102.5 mph and snuck over the wall in right, according to Statcast.

“Maldonado could have had a two home run day,” manager Ned Yost said. “He missed a two-home-run day by about a foot, so I thought we did OK.”

The veteran catcher has been heating up with the weather. Maldonado entered June hitting just .207 with a .585 OPS, but has seen those numbers steadily climb over the past two weeks. After Maldonado was hit by a pitch in a later at bat, he’s now reached base multiple times in each of his last three games.