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Saunders leads Blue Jays past Royals

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TORONTO—Michael Saunders is making for a humble all-star candidate.

The Victoria native hit a solo home run and added a tie-breaking RBI double as the Blue Jays held on for a 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals yesterday.

Saunders is one of five American League players on an online ballot, with fans able to vote for the last addition to the AL’s all-star team.

After leading Toronto’s offence last night, however, Saunders was quick to dismiss talk of individual accolades.

“I hope people are paying attention,” said Saunders when asked if the productive night helped his all-star chances.

“But it’s about getting wins. We want, as a team, to go into the all-star break feeling good and going strong and that’s where we’re at right now,” he added.

“It’s really not about an individual, it’s about the light at the end of the tunnel and we’re playing great baseball right now.”

Three Blue Jays have already made the all-star roster, with third baseman Josh Donaldson, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and starting pitcher Marco Estrada named to the AL’s team on Tuesday.

Estrada, however, will be unable to participate as he was put on Toronto’s 15-day disabled list yesterday. Fellow Blue Jays starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez is in contention to be Estrada’s replacement.

Saunders just wants Toronto to add to its five-game win streak.

“First and foremost, that’s what’s important right now, that we get the wins. That we finish strong leading into the all-star break,” said Saunders.

“Obviously, the support that I’ve received, not only from the guys in this locker-room and this organization but fans all across Canada, words can’t describe how grateful I am.”

Marcus Stroman (7-4) pitched eight innings, giving up two runs on three hits and striking out six for Toronto (48-39). It was the longest outing he’s pitched in two months, since throwing eight innings in a 5-1 win in Tampa on May 1.

Roberto Osuna earned his 17th save in a quick ninth inning.

After the win, Stroman served as Saunders’s spokesman.

“We gotta touch on Michael Saunders. He should be in the all-star game. He’s the reason we won today,” said Stroman, who also advocated for Sanchez to make the all-star game.

“Canada needs to do everything in their power to vote as much as they can to make sure he keeps that lead, make sure he makes that game because he’s extremely deserving. He’s been Mr. Consistent all year.”

Ian Kennedy (6-7) gave up four hits and two runs with 10 strikeouts but earned a no decision for the World Series champion Royals (43-41), who have lost four straight including getting swept out of Toronto.

Luke Hochevar and Kelvin Herrera each pitched an inning of relief, with Herrera giving up two runs for the loss.

Designated hitter Brett Eibner led Kansas City’s offence with a solo homer and two runs.

Saunders hit his 16th of the season off Kennedy, putting the ball over the right-field wall for a 1-0 Toronto lead in the fourth inning. Ezequiel Carrera added to that lead in the fifth, driving in Junior Lake from second with a single to centre field.

Alcides Escobar made it 2-1 with a soft triple to left-centre field.

He scored Eibner from second and almost scored himself when Kevin Pillar’s throw from the outfield went past Donaldson at third.

Stroman was backing up Donaldson on the play, however, and scrambled to stop the ball, keeping Escobar on base.

Stroman then induced a pair of groundouts and a strikeout to end the inning.

“If you win ugly, you win ugly,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “If you win pretty, you win pretty.”

Rain made a rare appearance at Rogers Centre in the seventh inning, with the dome unable to close before some of the 39,971 fans in attendance got wet.

Play continued despite the light shower.

Eibner tied it 2-2 in the eighth inning, putting a pitch from Stroman over the left-field wall.

Saunders broke that tie in the bottom of the inning, smacking an RBI double to centre field, scoring Encarnacion from second.

Russell Martin followed that up with a double up the first-base line, driving home Saunders and giving Toronto a 4-2 lead.

Elsewhere in the American League, the Tigers trounced the Indians 12-2; the Twins blanked the Athletics 4-0; the Orioles downed the Dodgers 6-4; the Red Sox wrangled the Rangers 11-6; the Angels beat the Rays 7-2; and the White Sox beat the Yankees 5-0.

In National League action, the Phillies beat the Braves 4-3; the Mets reeled in the Marlins 4-2; the Reds clubbed the Cubs 5-3; the Nationals defeated the Brewers 7-4; the Astros edged by the Mariners 9-8; the Pirates looted the Cardinals 7-5; the Padres drove out the Diamondbacks 13-6; and the Giants towered over the Rockies 5-1.

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