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


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.

Olson blasts two HRs, Acuña has 4 hits as Strider, Braves overpower Phillies 11-4

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA – Given a seven-run lead in the first inning, Atlanta right-hander Spencer Strider could relax and keep adding to his majors-leading strikeout total.

“That game felt like it was over pretty quick,” Strider said.

Ronald Acuña Jr. drove in three runs with four hits, including a two-run single in Atlanta’s seven-run first inning, and the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 11-4 on Sunday night to split the four-game series.

“Getting a lead first is big, especially when you get that big of a lead,” Strider said. “… When we’re putting up runs, my job isn’t to be perfect. My job is to get outs.”

Following the game, Braves manager Brian Snitker announced right-hander Michael Soroka will be recalled to make his first start since the 2020 season on Monday night at Oakland.

Matt Olson hit a pair of two-run homers for Atlanta, and Strider became the fastest pitcher in modern history to reach 100 strikeouts in a season.

“It’s incredible,” said Acuña through a translator of Strider. “Every time he goes out to pitch it seems like he’s going to strike everybody out.”

Acuña hit a run-scoring triple in the fifth before Olson’s second homer to center. Acuña had two singles in the first when the Braves sent 11 batters to the plate, collected seven hits and opened a 7-0 lead. Led by Acuña and Olson, who had three hits, the Braves set a season high with 20 hits.

Strider (5-2) struck out nine while pitching six innings of two-run ball. The right-hander fired a called third strike past Nick Castellanos for the first out of the fourth, giving him 100 strikeouts in 61 innings and topping Jacob deGrom‘s 61 2/3 innings in 2021 as the fastest to 100 in the modern era.

“It’s cool,” Strider said, adding “hopefully it’ll keep going.”

Olson followed Acuña’s leadoff single with a 464-foot homer to right-center. Austin Riley added another homer before Ozzie Albies and Acuña had two-run singles in the long first inning.

Phillies shortstop Trea Turner and left fielder Kyle Schwarber each committed an error on a grounder by Orlando Arcia, setting up two unearned runs in the inning.

Strider walked Kody Clemens to open the third. Brandon Marsh followed with a two-run homer for the Phillies’ first hit. Schwarber hit a two-run homer off Collin McHugh in the seventh.


Michael Harris II celebrated the one-year anniversary of his major league debut by robbing Schwarber of a homer with a leaping catch at the center-field wall in the second. As Harris shook his head to say “No!” after coming down with the ball on the warning track, Strider pumped his fist in approval on the mound – after realizing Harris had the ball.

“He put me through an emotional roller coaster for a moment,” Strider said.


Soroka was scratched from his scheduled start at Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday, setting the stage for his final step in his comeback from two torn Achilles tendons.

“To get back is really a feather in that kid’s cap,” Snitker said.

Soroka will be making his first start in the majors since Aug. 3, 2020, against the New York Mets when he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon. Following a setback which required a follow-up surgery, he suffered another tear of the same Achilles tendon midway through the 2021 season.

Soroka suffered another complication in his comeback when a hamstring injury slowed his progress this spring.

Acuña said he was “super happy, super excited for him, super proud of him” and added “I’m just hoping for continued good health.”

Soroka looked like an emerging ace when he finished 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 2019 and placed second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and sixth in the NL Cy Young voting.

The Braves are 0-3 in bullpen committee games as they attempt to overcome losing two key starters, Max Fried (strained left forearm) and Kyle Wright (right shoulder inflammation) to the injured list in early May. Each is expected to miss at least two months.

RHP Dereck Rodriguez, who gave up one hit in two scoreless innings, was optioned to Gwinnett after the game to clear a roster spot for Soroka.


Phillies right-hander Dylan Covey (0-1), claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 20, didn’t make it through the first inning. Covey allowed seven runs, five earned, and six hits, including the homers by Olson and Riley.


Phillies: 3B Alex Bohm was held out with hamstring tightness. … LHP José Alvarado (left elbow inflammation) threw the bullpen session originally scheduled for Saturday. Manager Rob Thomson said there was no report that Alvarado, who was placed on the injured list on May 10, had any difficulty.


Phillies: Following an off day, LHP Ranger Suárez (0-1, 9.82 ERA) is scheduled to face Mets RHP Kodai Senga (4-3, 3.94 ERA) in Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series in New York.

Braves: Soroka was 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA in eight games with Triple-A Gwinnett. He allowed a combined four hits and two runs over 10 2/3 innings in his last two starts. RHP Paul Blackburn (7-6, 4.28 ERA in 2022) is scheduled to make his 2023 debut for Oakland as he returns from a finger injury.