TORONTO (AP) — George Springer homered twice and drove in four runs, Kevin Gausman struck out 10 over eight sharp innings and the Toronto Blue Jays moved a season-best 16 games above .500 by beating the Kansas City Royals 5-1 on Saturday.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had two hits for the Blue Jays (79-63), who entered 1 1/2 games ahead of Texas for the final AL wild card berth. Toronto has won five of six and is 6-2 in September.
“This is a fun time to play,” Springer said. “We’re obviously right in the middle of it.”
Springer homered against Zach Greinke (1-15) in the fourth and Angel Zerpa in the seventh, his 21st multihomer game and first this year. Springer has 19 homers this season.
“When he’s hot, he can just take over the game,” Gausman said of Springer. “He kind of single-handedly beat them today. When he’s feeling good at the plate, there’s nobody better.”
Gausman (11-8) allowed one run and two hits, and raised his AL-leading strikeouts total to 217 with his eighth double-digit strikeout game this season and first since June 27. He struck out the side in the eighth.
“It’s what he’s been doing since we acquired him last year,” manager John Schneider said.
Gausman said an ability to locate his fastball down in the strike zone helped make his splitter more effective.
“I had really good command, probably better as the game went on,” Gausman said. “When I’m able to dot that pitch, it definitely makes things harder for hitters.”
Royals outfielder Drew Waters had one of Kansas City’s two hits but struck out in his other two at-bats. Waters agreed that it was hard to lay off Gausman’s splitter.
“When you start looking down in the zone for his fastball because that’s where he’s throwing it and then he sneaks a split in there right after, it’s hard not to swing at it,” Waters said.
Jordan Hicks pitched a 1-2-3 ninth as the Royals were held to two hits or fewer for the ninth time.
Kansas City lost its third straight and eighth of 11. The Royals (44-99) have the worst record in the major leagues and are one defeat from their first 100-loss season since 2019.
Springer put Toronto ahead in the fourth with a leadoff homer off Greinke, who allowed four runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings of relief. The 39-year-old right-hander, a six-time All-Star, is 0-11 with a 5.56 ERA in 19 appearances since beating Baltimore on May 3.
“He was battling out there,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “He struggled for command, for stuff. He wasn’t as sharp as he normally is.”
Grienke’s 15 losses are one shy of teammate Jordan Lyles, the major league leader.
Gausman didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings, but Edward Olivares tied it with a solo homer in the fifth.
Springer’s two-run single in the bottom half gave Toronto a 3-1 lead. Springer is 10 for 18 in his career against Greinke.
Toronto made it 4-1 in the sixth when Guerrero singled and scored on Cavan Biggio’s double.
Guerrero stuck his right hand out to touch home plate while avoiding an attempted tag on his left arm from catcher Salvador Perez.
NEW LOOK, COLD NECK
Gausman pitched for the first time since cutting off several inches of hair, which had previously reached his shoulders.
“I was just tired of it,” Gausman said. “It was so hot, my neck was just sweating too much. A cold neck today was pretty nice. It felt good.”
Royals 2B Michael Massey grabbed Guerrero’s grounder in the seventh and flipped it to SS Bobby Wit Jr., who threw to first for the out.
“That was incredible,” Quatraro said. “They’ve done that a couple of times but I think that’s the best of the ones they’ve done.”
Kansas City has not won a series north of the border since 2017 and has lost nine of its past 10 games in Toronto.
Royals: Kansas City put LHP Austin Cox (left knee) on the 60-day IL and C Freddy Fermin (fractured right middle finger) in the 10-day IL. Cox had to be helped off the field after he was injured covering first base in the seventh inning of Friday’s loss. Fermin was injured on a catcher’s interference play in the eighth. The Royals activated RHP Brad Keller (shoulder) off the 60-day IL and selected the contract of C Tyler Cropley from Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Blue Jays: SS Bo Bichette got the day off after being activated off the IL Friday. Bichette returned after missing nine games because of a strained right quadriceps.
Blue Jays RHP José Berríos (9-10, 3.68 ERA) is expected to face Royals LHP Cole Ragans (6-4, 3.00) in Sunday’s series finale. Ragans has pitched 21 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest active streak in the majors.