September 22, 2017 / 2:28 AM / a month ago

Preview: Royals at Blue Jays

After unleashing some offensive frustration to halt a three-game skid, the Kansas City Royals will go for a series win against the host Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday in the rubber match of a three-game series. Kansas City used an eight-run second inning en route to a 15-5 win on Wednesday night to close within 3 1/2 games of the American League’s second wild card.

The Royals had failed to score more than four runs in eight straight games before busting loose against the Blue Jays, getting a franchise record-setting 37th home run from Mike Moustakas. Whit Merrifield matched Moustakas with three hits and a homer to keep Kansas City within striking distance of Minnesota for the final playoff slot with 11 games to play. Raffy Lopez and Teoscar Hernández each came off the bench to drive in a pair of runs for Toronto, which would need to win its final 10 games to avoid its first losing record since 2013. A pair of veteran left-handers square off in the series finale when the Blue Jays send J.A. Happ to the mound and the Royals counter with Jason Vargas.

TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, FSN Kansas City, Sportsnet (Toronto)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals LH Jason Vargas (16-10, 4.19 ERA) vs. Blue Jays LH J.A. Happ (9-10, 3.76)

Vargas halted his second-half spiral by winning his last two starts, although he went five innings in each and hasn’t resembled the pitcher who was 12-3 on June 30. He gave up three runs at Cleveland on Friday after limiting Minnesota to one run on four hits in his previous turn. Vargas is 3-3 with a 4.96 ERA against the Blue Jays after beating them with seven innings of two-run ball on June 24.

Happ is coming on strong after starting the season by losing his first four decisions and not earning his first victory until June 11. He has surrendered a total of five earned runs in winning each of his last three starts to move closer to a sixth season with double-digit victories. Brandon Moss is 8-for-16 versus Happ, who pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Royals on June 23.

WALK-OFFS

1. Merrifield is two home runs shy of becoming the third player in franchise history with 20 homers and 30 steals.

2. The Blue Jays agreed to a one-year, $13 million deal for RHP Marco Estrada on Wednesday.

3. Royals C Salvador Perez had a three-run homer to move within three RBIs of matching his career best of 79 set in 2013.

PREDICTION: Blue Jays 5, Royals 4

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