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Blue Jays can’t convert chances in loss to Royals

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TORONTO (AP) — Right from the first inning, the Toronto Blue Jays had chances to score against Kansas City Royals left-hander Jason Vargas. They just couldn’t come up with the hit they needed to cash in any one of them.

Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain homered, Vargas won for the first time in three starts and the Royals beat the Blue Jays 6-1 on Friday night.

Cain went 3 for 4 and matched a career high with four RBIs, and Gordon reached base three times as the Royals handed Toronto its second consecutive loss following a season-best nine-game winning streak.

Toronto put at least one runner on in every inning, but finished 0 for 10 with men in scoring position and stranded a season-high 14 runners.

“(Vargas) did a great job of keeping that big inning off the board,” Blue Jays catcher Erik Kratz said.

Vargas (5-2) allowed one run and seven hits in six innings, walked three and struck out seven. He’s 2-0 with a 1.60 ERA in six road starts this season.

“He’s a crafty lefty,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He keeps you off-balance, he never gives in. We had some shots but he was that much better.”

Vargas allowed a leadoff triple to Jose Reyes in the first, but Reyes had to hold at third on Melky Cabrera’s fly ball to right. Jose Bautista followed with a walk, but Vargas got out of it by getting Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie to fly out.

“I feel something like that hopefully sets the tone for the game and fires us up,” Vargas said. “We were able to get a run the next inning and keep it moving from there.”

Aaron Crow worked the seventh and Kevin Herrera pitched the final two innings, striking out Dioner Navarro for the final out to strand runners at first and second.

Kansas City’s home runs were their 23rd and 24th of the season, the lowest in the majors.

Cain got the Royals on the board with an RBI single off left-hander J.A. Happ in the second, and Gordon followed Butler’s leadoff single by homering on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth.

Bautista replied with a two-out homer in the fifth, but the Royals restored their three-run lead in the sixth. Gordon drew a one-out walk and was almost caught stealing but ended up at second after first baseman Encarnacion dropped Happ’s pickoff throw. The mistake proved costly when Cain drove in Gordon with a two-out single.

Kansas City chased Happ and capped the scoring in the eighth on Cain’s two-out homer.

Happ (4-2) lost for the first time in four starts, allowing a season-worst six runs in 7 2-3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.

“They put some good swings on me,” Happ said. “They were aggressive and they definitely made me pay for my mistakes.”

For the second straight game, Bautista threw out a runner at first from right field. After getting Billy Butler on Thursday, Bautista slid to corral Infante’s shallow fly and gunned a throw to first in the seventh after Infante didn’t initially run out of the box.

“I don’t know if you’ll see a better play in baseball today than that play right there,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Omar hit the ball and lost it, he thought it was foul. For Bautista to come, smother the ball, one, and then still see that he had a play at first base, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a play like that. Tremendous play.”

NOTES: Toronto selected RHP Bobby Korecky from Triple-A Buffalo before the game and optioned LHP Rob Rasmussen to Triple-A. Korecky was designated for assignment following the game and RHP Marcus Stroman was recalled from Buffalo to start Saturday, with RHP Drew Hutchison pushed back to Tuesday for extra rest. … The Royals intend to recall RHP Aaron Brooks from Triple-A Omaha to start against the Blue Jays on Saturday. Brooks will pitch in place of RHP Yordano Ventura, who left his last start with a sore elbow. … Ventura played catch Friday and will throw a light bullpen Saturday. … 3B Danny Valencia returned to Kansas City’s lineup after missing the past five games with a sore left hand.