TORONTO - Canadian pitcher Jeff Francis made the most of his first career start in his home country.
The left-hander from North Delta, B.C., pitched six strong innings Thursday and Kansas City supported him with 16 hits, including Melky Cabrera's homer, as the Royals defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 9-6 in the rubber match of a three-game series.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell left the game in the ninth inning for medical examination after experience muscular pain in his left side below the rib cage. He was later diagnosed with pneumonia. Farrell has been released from hospital and is expected to return to the team later today.
Designated hitter Billy Butler had four hits including a two-run double in the eighth inning against reliever Shawn Camp to lead the Royals’ offence.
Francis (5-14) ended a personal three-game losing streak as he held the Blue Jays to six hits and two runs, both on the 20th homer of the season by catcher J.P. Arencibia in the seventh inning. He struck out five.
“There was a lot of family that came to watch, not only in the building but on TV,” said Francis who was chased in the seventh when he failed to get an out from his three batters.
“But once I get out there it's like every other game. It was a good day.”
Francis' brother and niece came down from Montreal, while several former teammates from the University of British Columbia and members of his wife's family who live in Ontario also attended the game.
“I know he's real excited,” Royals right-fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “He had about 15 or 16 family members here tonight. It means a lot. It's like any time I go back to Atlanta, where I'm from, it's a big deal. I couldn't be happier for him. He did a great job for us tonight and gave us a huge two out of three up here against a tough team.”
His two previous outings against the Blue Jays were at Coors Field when he was with the Colorado Rockies in 2006 and in 2010 and he is 3-0 with 2.37 earned-run average against them after Thursday’s game.
Toronto left-hander Brett Cecil (4-7) allowed nine hits and five runs in 6 1/3 innings. Cabrera’s homer ended his outing in the seventh.
“The fastball Melky hit just cut back over the plate,” Cecil said. “I was missing, not so much up, just missing location.”
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 13th homer of the season against Joakim Soria with two out in the ninth to score two runs for Toronto.
“Francis pitched great,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He came back to his home country and really did a nice job of keeping them off-balance. He worked down good tonight, really changed speeds well.”
“It was nice to come out and throw some zeroes up early in the game and get out to a lead,” Francis said, “And really just try and settle in, throw a lot of strikes and let the defence do their job. They sure did. I was throwing strikes with everything.”
The Royals (54-77) reached Cecil for a run in the third on a leadoff double by Salvador Perez and a two-out single by Johnny Giavotella.
The Blue Jays (66-64) could not take advantage of a two-out triple by Eric Thames in the home third. Jose Bautista was walked intentionally for the 19th time this year and Encarnacion, who batted fourth with Adam Lind dropped to fifth, flew out to right.
The Royals added a run in the fourth on a leadoff double by Butler that dropped just fair between charging second baseman Kelly Johnson, making his Blue Jays debut, and right-fielder Bautista. Mike Moustakas singled him home with two out.
Cabrera hit the Royals third leadoff double of the game in the sixth, took third on Butler’s single and scored on a one-out single up the middle by Francoeur to put Kansas City ahead 3-0.
The Blue Jays could not take advantage of Bautista’s leadoff double in the sixth. Francis struck out Encarnacion and Lind before ending the inning on a fly to the centre-field wall by Brett Lawrie, who also hails from the Vancouver area.
“After that leadoff double by Bautista in the sixth inning I got the next couple of guys to strike out,” Francis said. “Those were big pitches, big outs that kind of turned the game in our favour.”
Johnson led off the home seventh with his first Blue Jay hit and Arencibia homered to cut Kansas City’s lead to 5-2.
Francis was removed after Mike McCoy’s single. Greg Holland took over.
The Royals scored twice in the eighth to lead 7-2 and the Blue Jays again cut the lead to three in the home half of the inning on Encarnacion’s double, Lawrie’s triple and Arencibia’s sacrifice fly.
“I know what kind of hitter (Lawrie) is, not only for that team but this whole country,” Francis said. “They sure love him here and they should.”
Arencibia dropped a foul ball in the ninth and Moustakas took advantage of the reprieve to drive in a run with a double against Rommie Lewis. Maier lined a sacrifice fly to right as Bautista made a superb catch over his head.
Johnson, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks for second baseman Aaron Hill and infielder John McDonald, batted seventh. He was 1-for-2 with two walks and cut a runner down at home in the field.
Johnson had an interesting two days after the trade. The Diamondbacks were in Washington when the trade took place and he learned of it about the time the earthquake hit.
“Actually, right after I found out I was traded I was in my hotel, I was on the phone with my agent and the room was just rocking and shaking,” Johnson said. “So I’m having to go through that earthquake. I had no idea what was going on, already getting traded. I was already in shock and now I’m getting thrown around my room. It was crazy.”
In coming to Toronto, Johnson is reunited with his double play partner shortstop Yunel Escobar who played with him for the Atlanta Braves.
"He's awesome,” Johnson said. “The guy can play. He's one of the best shortstops in the game, has fun, plays hard every single day. So it's good to have that familiar face for sure.”
Notes: Attendance at Rogers Centre was 17,355. ....With Johnson’s arrival, outfielder Darin Mastroianni was returned to triple-A Las Vegas after playing one game, Wednesday. McCoy played centre field on Thursday with centre fielder Colby Rasmus still out with a sore right wrist. ...Arencibia’s 20th homer of the season equalled the franchise record for a catcher set last season by John Buck. ...Francoeur suffered a bruised calf when hit by a pitch in the ninth. ....Right-hander Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 4.32 ERA) makes his fourth career major-league start for the Blue Jays on Friday against James Shields (11-10, 3.05 ERA) in the opener of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.