KANSAS CITY -- The Blue Jays were in urgent need of a resilient start on Friday night and J.A. Happ was up for the challenge.
It didn't begin in promising fashion, but the left-hander hung tough and was rewarded with an 8-4 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. With the overworked Toronto bullpen needing a starter to fill the breach, Happ opened with a 41-pitch first inning.
The Royals got three in the first to take a 3-2 lead and there were visions of another long night for the Blue Jays' relievers. But Happ took a deep breath and wound up going five innings to get the win. He left after allowing five hits and four runs. After Toronto got two runs in the second and one in the third off Kansas City starter Luis Mendoza for a 5-3 advantage, Happ was fierce in protecting the lead.
Happ finished with a flourish. With two on and one out in the fifth and Toronto leading just, 5-4, Happ got Salvador Perez on a fly ball and Mike Moustakas on a popup. Happ wound up throwing 110 pitches.
"My fastball wasn't working quite like I was hoping for," Happ said. "But I was able to settle down. I knew we were kind of short in the bullpen. I needed to bear down and get through some innings. Our offense was on a mission tonight and that was great."
Happ felt he might have been overthrowing in the first, but he tried to relax and let the ball work for him.
"I was able to get some more movement on my pitches," Happ said.
Once Happ got Toronto through five with the lead, the bullpen duo of Sergio Santos and Aaron Loup took it from there. Santos worked one clean inning and Loup faced nine hitters in three innings to lower his ERA to 1.29 and record his first Major League save.
The Blue Jays (4-6) got breathing room in the sixth with a three-run rally. Emilio Bonifacio produced his second RBI double of the game and Jose Reyes added a two-run single. But joy quickly turned to concern, when Reyes stole second and severely sprained his left ankle. The injury is expected to sideline him at least a month, according to general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"It didn't look good," Happ said. "You try to keep going, but he's a huge part of the club."
The Royals (6-4) had a four-game winning streak snapped. They had all the answers in a three-game sweep over Minnesota earlier in the week, but weren't able to build on their three-run first. The Blue Jays came right back in the second with consecutive doubles by Colby Rasmus and Bonifacio. When Bonifacio went to third on the throw home, Perez tried throwing there. But the ball sailed past third for an error and Bonifacio scored the go-ahead run.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost lamented that his team couldn't manage much offense after the three-run first.
"We got [Happ's] pitch count up and then he did what we hoped Mendy would do -- he settled in during the second, third and fourth," Yost said. "It took Mendy until the fourth."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.