TORONTO -- For the third time in as many games against the Royals, the Blue Jays dug themselves a hole and for the second time in the series, it was too much for them to overcome. The Blue Jays fell behind early and ended up losing the rubber match in the series, 9-6 on Thursday night.
The Blue Jays came up against Jeff Francis, the Vancouver-area native who had family and friends from across Canada in attendance for his first appearance in his home country in his pro career.
Francis, who also had former teammates from the University of British Columbia in to watch him, frustrated the Blue Jays' offense over six-plus innings in one of his best outings of the season. Francis gave up two runs on six hits.
"It was nice to come out and throw some zeroes up early in the game and get out to a lead, and really just try and settle in, throw a lot of strikes and let the defense do their job. They sure did," said Francis.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, countered with Brett Cecil. While Cecil started strong, working quickly through the first two innings -- he gave up five runs, all earned, over 6 1/3 innings. His night came to an end in the seventh after Royals centre fielder Melky Cabrera crushed his 17th homer of the season off the windows above the second deck in left field at Rogers Centre.
"Every pitcher makes mistakes. Some hurt and some don't and unfortunately I'm on the other end of that and unfortunately it's hurt me on my last lot of starts. This one more than others obviously," said Cecil, whose record dropped to 4-7, while the Jays record fell to 66-64.
The Royals first got to Cecil in the third inning. Catcher Salvador Perez led off the inning with a double into left field and after Cecil got the next two batters he faced, second baseman Johnny Giavotella drove in Perez with a base hit to centre.
Francis was given a 2-0 lead in the fourth after another leadoff double, this one a popup by Butler that dropped safely just inside the right-field line between second baseman Kelly Johnson and right fielder Jose Bautista. Butler moved to third as Eric Hosmer bounced out and then scored on Mike Moustakas' two-out single. That gave Moustakas an eight-game hitting streak.
In the top of the sixth, Butler came around to score on a Perez single and went 4-for-5 with two RBIs.
Cecil was reportedly battling strep throat and a fever but said that didn't affect him at all.
Heading into the seventh, Francis had only given up three hits. After Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia hit homer No. 20 on the season to dead centre field that also drove in Kelly Johnson, the newest Blue Jay, who had led off the inning with his first hit in his first appearance with the club, Mike McCoy followed with a single. It was then that Royals manager Ned Yost went to his bullpen.
"Francis pitched great," Yost said. "He came back to his home country and really did a nice job of keeping them off balance. He worked down good tonight, really changed speeds well."
Yost brought in Greg Holland, who got the Royals out of the inning without giving up any more runs.
"That was certainly going to be our inning if there was going to be one. They kept at it. They hit the ball all night," Johnson said. "Hopefully it'll turn and we'll get games like that." Arencibia's homer tied him for the single-season club record for a catcher with John Buck. Buck hit 20 homers for the Blue Jays last season.
After the Royals scored twice in the top of the ninth, closer Joakim Soria came on in a non-save situation. Soria surrendered a pair of runs when Edwin Encarnacion connected for a two-run homer, his 13th of the season with two outs in the inning.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell left the game in the ninth inning, complaining of a muscle pain on his left side and was unable to speak to the media after the game. Farrell was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. He was released from the hospital and is expected to return to the team on Friday.
"Just about the eighth inning, John was gone for a second. He came back in the top of the ninth and wasn't feeling very good. He was feeling some pain in his left side," said bench coach Don Wakamatsu. "We both decided it best to go in the bottom of the ninth to go get it checked out. So he just missed the bottom of the ninth."
The Blue Jays trail the Tampa Bay Rays by 4 1/2 games for third place in the American League East, and will have a chance to close the gap when the Rays open a series at Rogers Centre Friday.
Gavin Day is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.