TORONTO (AP) - Ricky Romero wasn't at his best, and the Kansas City Royals still couldn't figure out a way to beat him.
Brett Lawrie hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning, Jose Bautista added his major league-leading 37th homer and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Kansas City 4-3 on Wednesday night.
Jesse Litsch (5-3) pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the win. Frank Francisco worked ninth for his 11th save.
Romero came in with a 5-0 record and 0.89 ERA since July 27, tied for the most wins in the majors while compiling the best ERA in that span. But the lefty wasn't as sharp in this one, giving up three runs and eight hits in six innings. That was as many earned runs as he had allowed in his previous three starts combined.
Romero, who walked four and struck out three, said he's matured enough to battle when his command isn't there.
``It's part of growing up as a pitcher, from my rookie year to now,' he said. ``I don't let little stuff bother me. My job is to go out there and make quality pitches and try to get as many innings as possible. That's what I did today. I didn't have my best stuff, but I grinded through six innings and when you can call this a bad day, I'll take it.'
Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Romero has learned to channel his competitive fire when he needs to.
``I think this was one of those times where he relied on it a lot to get through some situations when one pitch or the other wasn't always working,' Farrell said.
Kansas City took a 2-0 lead through three innings against Toronto's ace but couldn't manage another hit with runners in scoring position the rest of the way. The Royals stranded 11 runners and went 2 for 14 with men in scoring position.
``We put three runs up on one of the best lefties in the game,' Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. ``You can't really say we didn't try to capitalize on his mistakes. That's just how it is. Even when he's off you're only going to get three and when he's on you're going to get none.'
Melky Cabrera walked to begin the ninth and, after Butler lined out, stole second. Francisco struck out Eric Hosmer and ended it by getting Jeff Francoeur to line out to right.
Louis Coleman (1-3) took the loss for the Royals, who have not won consecutive games since Aug. 3-4. Kansas City has won four of its past 16.
Lawrie broke a 3-3 tie with a leadoff blast to left in the seventh, his fourth. The rookie third baseman also hit an RBI triple in the fourth.
``It's always fun when you get in games where it's close and you can contribute,' Lawrie said. ``That was a fun game. The pitchers kept us in it and we battled all game.'
Romero hit Alex Gordon to begin the first and the Royals outfielder stole second before scoring on Butler's double.
Gordon walked to open the third, moved to second on a grounder and came home on Butler's RBI single.
Toronto scored three runs in the fourth. Yunel Escobar was hit by a pitch from right-hander Luke Hochevar and Bautista responded to an inside pitch by hitting a towering home run off the facing of the third deck in left.
Hochevar insisted he wasn't trying to hit either Escobar or Bautista.
``There's not a rule that says you can't pitch inside,' Hochevar said. ``If they're going to stand there and stare at me when I come inside that's fine, but I'm going to keep doing it. I'm not out there trying to hit guys or hurt anyone.'
Bautista played down the staredown incident, saying he didn't look at Hochevar ``for any particular reason.'
One out later, Edwin Encarnacion singled and then scored on Lawrie's triple to left-center.
Kansas City tied it when Gordon led off the fifth with a homer to right, his career-high 17th.
Like Romero, Hochevar didn't figure in the decision, allowing three runs and four hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out five.
NOTES: Francisco has not allowed a run in a season-high 11 innings. ... Lawrie's triple snapped an 0 for 10 slump. ... With OF Colby Rasmus sidelined by a sore right wrist, Toronto recalled OF Darin Mastroianni from Triple-A Las Vegas and then he made his major league debut in CF. He went 0 for 2 with a sacrifice. ... 2B Kelly Johnson, acquired in Tuesday's trade with Arizona, did not join the Blue Jays on Wednesday. He is expected to arrive in time to start Thursday. ... Kansas City LHP Jeff Francis (4-14) faces Toronto LHP Brett Cecil (4-6) in Thursday's series finale.
The Associated Press News Service
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