TORONTO — Royals manager Ned Yost sat in his office at the Rogers Centre on Wednesday afternoon and shook off the idea that starting pitcher Ian Kennedy's early-season success had in any way shocked him.
Kennedy, a 33-year-old right-hander in his third year with the Royals, had only allowed two runs in 18 innings spanning his first three starts. He had earned one of the Royals' precious few victories to begin this 2018 campaign. He was off to his best start since joining the Royals in 2016.
But of all the things that could have surprised Yost about the start of the season, it wasn't Kennedy's body of work.
It was a relief corps that had posted a major-league worst 6.75 ERA in 15 games and squandered sterling performances from the Royals' starting rotation from the moment the season started on a dreary afternoon in Kansas City three weeks ago.
"I expected the bullpen to be better," he said. "That surprised me a little bit, that they've struggled to the extent that they've struggled."
Hours later, in a series finale 15-5 loss to the Blue Jays, it wasn't the bullpen that coughed up a potential Royals victory this time. It was Kennedy himself.
Kennedy fell into an early 1-0 hole against the Blue Jays and never climbed his way out. He wound up being charged with six runs (four earned) in five innings, during which he gave up season highs of eight hits and three walks.
Yet the bullpen exacerbated the situation.
Kevin McCarthy, who was recalled last week to replace reliever Brandon Maurer, allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings. Two of them scored when rookie Brad Keller allowed a two-out, bases-clearing triple in the seventh inning.
And Justin Grimm's recent streak of bad outings reached a climax in the eighth inning. He gave up six runs, including four when Curtis Granderson crushed a hanging curveball for a grand slam.
The Royals' offense, which had only provided four runs of support in his previous outings, tried to get Kennedy back into the game. A two-run double from Mike Moustakas in the third gave the Royals a 2-1 lead, and later Whit Merrifield dumped a two-run homer beyond the wall in left-center field that tied the score at 4 in the fifth.
No matter how desperately the Royals tried to claw back into the game, they couldn't. A Jorge Soler home run in the eighth _ his first of the year and first since July 1 of last season _ went for naught.
Mired in an eight-game losing streak that started a week ago in Kauffman Stadium, the Royals (3-13) will head to Detroit for four games against the Tigers beginning with a doubleheader Friday.