Sparkman continues to struggle with homers

TORONTO — With a low strikeout rate and plenty of balls put in play through the air, Kansas City starter Glenn Sparkman has walked a fine line in 2019, and that balance tipped against him again on Monday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

Sparkman lasted just three innings and allowed eight runs in the 11-4 loss to Toronto, including three home runs, which has been an emerging trend for Sparkman as a starter. Over his last four outings, Sparkman has struck out 10 batters but surrendered nine home runs.

“I just really didn’t have good command of anything, and they jumped it,” Sparkman said after the loss. “There’s not much to say.”

The theme of the day was hard contact. Both sides were barreling up the ball, but the Blue Jays did it more consistently and delivered the big blows. It didn’t seem to matter which pitch Sparkman turned to, either.

The first home run allowed to Teoscar Hernandez, a solo shot, came on a high fastball clocked at 92.9 mph. Freddy Galvis launched the next two on a low curveball at 80.9 mph and, in the next inning, a changeup on the outer half at 86.5 mph.

Manager Ned Yost commented earlier in the series that it seemed as if every mistake pitch was leaving the yard instead of being popped up or fouled back, and that stayed true through Kansas City’s 3-1 series loss, as the teams combined for 15 home runs over the four games, just three of which were hit by the Royals.

To Yost, that’s life against American League East teams.

“It’s a tough division, man,” he said. “This American League East, with Boston and the Yankees. This team, they’ve got a bunch of really young, nice, good-looking hitters. They’re going to punish you if your command’s not good. They’re going to hammer you.”

Sparkman has felt some more run on his fastball recently, which could be a reason that it’s ended up in some hittable locations. But after his start, he remained focused on improving his control across the board. While the AL East and the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre often produce some big numbers, Sparkman knows that the results won’t improve with just a change of scenery.

“Everybody in this league is a really good hitter,” Sparkman said. “If you leave a guy any pitch over the middle, they can hit it pretty far. We made some mistakes this series, but we’re all working from it.”

Lefty Brian Flynn saved the bullpen from a long day by giving the Royals four innings on 76 pitches, the third time he’s worked four frames since being promoted in late May. Flynn allowed three runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out a pair.

First-time All-Star Whit Merrifield rounded out a strong series with another two hits, including a double, while Hunter Dozier collected two hits and a walk.