Royals pound Blue Jays into submission, take 3-1 lead in ALCS

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Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had right-hander R.A. Dickey on a short leash in the ALDS, pulling him in the fifth inning of his Game 4 start against the Rangers despite a 7-1 lead. There was no leash short enough today against the Royals, as the 40-year-old knuckleballer coughed up five runs–including homers to Ben Zobrist and Alex Rios–before being pulled in the second inning.

And then things got worse from there for the Blue Jays.

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Toronto’s power-packed lineup had several opportunities to climb out of the early hole dug by Dickey, but Kansas City starter Chris Young and first man out of the bullpen Luke Hochevar wriggled out of trouble each time. And then Blue Jays reliever LaTroy Hawkins and the rest of the bullpen imploded to put the game out of reach and allow the Royals to take a 3-1 lead in the ALCS without manager Ned Yost having to use stud closer Wade Davis. (He could have avoided using stud setup man Kelvin Herrera too, but brought him in anyway.)

During the regular season the Blue Jays led all of baseball in scoring by a wide margin, totaling 127 more runs than the second-best lineup. They looked the part in Game 3 on Monday night–so much so that sign-stealing allegations resurfaced via losing pitcher Johnny Cueto–but the Blue Jays have scored 0, 3, and 2 runs in the other three games of this series.

Meanwhile, the Royals lineup–which scored 167 fewer runs and hit 93 fewer homers than the Blue Jays during the regular season–has averaged more than six runs per game in the playoffs. Through four games of this series the Royals have totaled 33 runs and 46 hits in 34 innings. Things got so ugly for the Blue Jays’ pitching staff in the 14-2 loss that Gibbons called on utility infielder Cliff Pennington to get the final out in the ninth inning rather than extend actual relievers any further in a laugher.

Toronto lost the first two games of the best-of-five ALDS at home before winning three straight games to take the series. Now the Blue Jays are again facing elimination and again need to win three straight games to advance. Marco Estrada will try to get that train rolling tomorrow afternoon against Edinson Volquez, a rematch of the Royals win in Game 1. Anything can happen, of course, but right now the idea of the Royals losing three straight games seems far-fetched. They look like a scarier, souped-up version of last year’s pennant winners.

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.