KANSAS CITY -- You can't ask for much more than a triple play and a comeback win.
That's exactly what the Blue Jays did Friday night, turning an early triple play and rallying for three runs in the top of the eighth inning to beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-3, at Kauffman Stadium.
Trailing for most of the game, the Jays pounced on Royals reliever Greg Holland, tagging him for three runs and turning a 2-1 Kansas City lead into a 4-2 Blue Jays lead. Colby Rasmus doubled to lead off the inning and J.P. Arencibia followed with an RBI single to tie the game. Three batters later, with nobody out, Jose Bautista came to the plate with the bases loaded and singled to right field to score pinch runner Rajai Davis and give Toronto a 3-2 lead. Edwin Encarnacion hit a sacrifice fly later in the inning, scoring Kelly Johnson and extending the lead to 4-2.
"It's huge for us," Arencibia said after the game. "We've had already a couple comeback wins, and we've had leads we've lost on other teams. Any time that you're on the other end of it, it's huge. You try to build a little momentum from it and get ready for [Saturday's] game."
On most nights, an eighth-inning rally to grab a come-from-behind win would be the biggest highlight of the evening. But that wasn't the case Friday, as the Blue Jays turned a triple play in the bottom of the third inning.
Royals outfielder Alex Gordon doubled to lead off the inning and second baseman Yuniesky Betancourt followed with a walk. With two on and no outs, first baseman Eric Hosmer stepped to the plate. Hosmer hit a line drive that was caught by Toronto first baseman Adam Lind, who took a few steps to the bag at first base and doubled off Betancourt. He then threw the ball to second base, where shortstop Yunel Escobar caught it and tripled off Gordon.
The triple play was the fourth in franchise history and the first since Sept. 21, 1979.
It also happened to figure big in the game, as the Royals had started to get to Jays starter Kyle Drabek. Drabek had surrendered a solo home run in the bottom of the second to Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, and he was struggling with his command, walking three batters before the triple play was turned. Had the Royals scored in the third, it could've been a much different ballgame.
"Every time I seemed to get in trouble, the defense had my back pretty much the whole game," Drabek said. "I think there was someone on every single inning, and they were able to limit it to just two runs."
Blue Jays manager John Farrell was also pleased with the defensive effort that aided his starting pitcher, who he said bent, but didn't break.
"Obviously, the third-inning triple play is something of a rarity for sure," Farrell said. "But that, in addition to the ground ball double play that Kyle was able to induce, allowed him to get out into the sixth inning. He battled his command, overall, but never gave in."
Drabek didn't figure in the decision, going 5 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on four hits. He walked six. Toronto reliever Luis Perez earned the win, his second of the season, and Holland took the loss, also his second of the season. Sergio Santos allowed one run in the ninth, but still picked up the save, his second of the season.
For much of the game, the Jays were held in check by Royals starter Luke Hochevar, who gave up just one run on two hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out five Blue Jays in the game, including four consecutive in the second and third innings. After Hochevar's exit, the Kansas City bullpen threw two scoreless innings before giving up the lead.
The Royals struggled offensively for their fourth consecutive game, unable to score more than three runs in any of them. They scored once in the bottom of the second on a Mike Moustakas solo home run to right field, and they scored in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Jeff Francoeur scored from third base on a Drabek wild pitch. They scored their final run of the evening on a ninth-inning single by Betancourt that plated Alcides Escobar.
Both teams played exceptional defense Friday. In addition to the triple play, the Jays also turned a double play in the fifth inning. The Royals kicked things off in the second with a great play by Moustakas to rob Encarnacion of a base hit. The Royals went on to turn two double plays of their own. In the seventh inning, Eric Thames hit a broken-bat grounder up the middle that was fielded by Alcides Escobar. The Kansas City shortstop couldn't keep his foot on the bag, but he managed to tag Encarnacion in the face and then throw on to first to get the second out.
The win snaps a two-game slide for the Jays and extends the Royals' losing streak to eight games.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.