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KC@TOR: Francoeur drives an RBI triple to left

TORONTO - Not many fireworks for the Royals on the Fourth of July. Well, after all, they were in Canada.

They couldn't spark much excitement with their bats and lost a second straight game to the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-1, on Wednesday night before 17,831 assembled fans at Rogers Centre.

The loss left the Royals with a 2-5 record on this road trip, their hopes of reaching the .500 mark by the All-Star break already dashed and things just getting worse. They'll reach the numerical halfway point of their season, the 81st game, on Thursday night carrying a 36-44 record.

The evening looked full of promise for Royals starter Luis Mendoza when he struck out the Major League's leading home-run hitter, Jose Bautista, on a slow outside curveball with the bases loaded to end the second inning.

That limited the Blue Jays to one run in the inning, on Rajai Davis' triple that rolled into right-center field and Kelly Johnson's sacrifice fly.

It was a botched play in the next inning, though, that contributed to Mendoza's downfall. Edwin Encarnacion led off the third with a spinning grounder toward right field. The play ended with both Mendoza and first baseman Eric Hosmer converging on the bag.

"I saw Hoz try to get the ball at the beginning and I tried to get to the base and get the throw, but Hosmer got back," Mendoza said. "He called it and I called it but, for me, it was hard to stop in that situation. But I should have let Hoz make that play. It just got a little confused."

As it happened, second baseman Yuniesky Betancourt's throw was caught by Mendoza -- but he was in front of Hosmer and off the bag.

"It had a weird spin on it, so I was kind of late getting over to the bag. I tried to rush over there and me and Mendy kind of called it at the same time but I just broke too late and probably should have let Mendy take care of it right there," Hosmer said. "He was there already and couldn't get out of the way, so it was just miscommunication."

OK, so Mendoza thought he should have let Hosmer take the throw and Hosmer thought he should have let Mendoza take it. Let manager Ned Yost break the tie.

"[Mendoza] has got to get out of the way," Yost said. "Hoz broke to the ball, then broke back and I could hear him screaming, 'I got it, I got it, I got it!' If I could hear him, Mendy's just got to put on the brakes as best he can and let Hoz take the play."

Ultimately, Encarnacion was safe with a single. Adam Lind followed with a double and both would up scoring on sacrifice flies by Yunel Escobar and Davis.

That was all Mendoza would allow as he went six innings, piling up a career-high nine strikeouts.

"He had nine strikeouts and he pitched really [well]," Yost said. "The only thing was, he couldn't get the ball down in crucial situations. All three runs came on sac flies on pitches that were up.

"We shortened up the infield to try to take advantage of his good two-seamer and keep the ball on the ground and see if we could cut off one or two of those runs, but all three pitches he got up."

Meantime, Carlos Villanueva, a right-hander brought into the Blue Jays' injury-decimated rotation just recently, was making his second start a thing of beauty.

A long-time reliever with Milwaukee, he breezed through six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts -- three against Hosmer. He gave up four hits but no more than one an inning and he walked no one.

That was as far as Blue Jays manager John Farrell let him go, figuring 85 pitches was plenty for a guy just coming off bullpen duty.

"They're an aggressive team, they're a young team, very good hitting team," Villanueva said. "If you make mistakes, they've shown that they can make you pay. But sometimes you use that aggressiveness against them, and today was one of those days. It worked out beautifully."

Jason Frasor relieved Villanueva in the seventh and that's when the Royals finally scored a run. With two outs, Mike Moustakas singled and scored on Jeff Francoeur's triple, which came courtesy of left fielder Davis' failed attempt at a shoetop catch. But Francoeur was stranded as Frasor struck out Salvador Perez.

In the bottom half of the inning, Perez took a hard foul off his right knee and the young catcher sank to the dirt, but stayed in the game and later said he was OK. At least it wasn't his surgically-corrected left knee.

This was his 10th game since coming off the disabled list and his third-inning single gave him hits in every one. He's hitting .371 (13-for-35).

In their history, the Royals have a winning record on the Fourth of July, 24-19. But in Canada, they're 0-1 on Independence Day. They forgot to bring their fireworks.

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