KANSAS CITY -- For 6 1/2 innings, the Blue Jays had the script they wanted with an encouraging start from Dustin McGowan and some timely hitting that produced a three-run lead.
But the ending turned nightmarish as bullpen woes and suspect defense proved costly in a 10-7 loss to the Royals on Tuesday night.
Kansas City rallied from a 5-2 deficit with two runs in the seventh and six more in the eighth to steal the opener of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Once McGowan left after allowing a leadoff double to Alex Gordon in the seventh, it was all downhill.
Blue Jays relievers Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil and Sergio Santos all had shaky outings as the Royals surged to the lead with aggressive hitting and baserunning. The big hero was Salvador Perez, who delivered a two-run homer in the seventh to bring the Royals within one before smashing a two-run, go-ahead double in the eighth.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was impressed by the resilience of the Royals against his bullpen.
"I want to say one thing about that team over there, because I was there when they were young," said Gibbons, a former Royals bench coach. "They play nine innings. Up or down, they compete and get after you. That's why they are going to wind up winning some day."
The beginning of the end for the Blue Jays came when Gordon launched a high fly to deep right-center against McGowan leading off the seventh. Neither center fielder Colby Rasmus nor right fielder Jose Bautista took charge and the ball dropped. McGowan left at that point after allowing just three hits.
McGowan pitched for the first time wearing his insulin pump, designed for increased stamina to combat his diabetes. The right-hander said he actually felt that he was getting stronger as the game wore on.
"It felt good," McGowan said. "I kept checking [the pump] every inning. I feel real encouraged because I got deep into the game, which is all I've been wanting to do."
There had been speculation that McGowan's rotation spot was on the line as he took the mound on Tuesday. Did McGowan feel he had performed well enough to earn another start?
"I hope so," he said. "I thought I threw the ball really well tonight, but I don't make those decisions."
The Blue Jays had taken a 3-2 lead in the fifth against Jason Vargas. An RBI triple by Melky Cabrera -- his franchise-record 40th hit for March/April -- was the key blow. Cabrera scored on a wild pitch to give Toronto the lead. The Blue Jays tacked on two in the seventh to knock out Vargas.
But the Royals used Perez's two-run homer off Delabar to shift the momentum in the seventh.
"I threw him a heater up in the zone and he did what he's supposed to do with a pitch that's up," Delabar said.
The Royals got a leadoff single from Eric Hosmer off Cecil in a lefty-on-lefty matchup to start the eighth. Billy Butler singled to left and Hosmer went to third when Cabrera was slow getting the ball back in. Cecil got Gordon on strikes and Gibbons went to his closer Santos against Perez.
"It was starting to go the other direction," Gibbons said. "We're bringing [Santos] in, looking for a strikeout."
Instead, Perez ripped his two-run double down the third-base line to give Kansas City the lead and ignite the six-run rally.
Perez is now 7-for-13 after emerging from a 1-for-29 slump. When the Blue Jays went to their closer in the eighth, Perez was able to trump Toronto's trump card.
"[Santos] threw me a first-pitch ball and he didn't want to get behind in the count, so he came in with the fastball," Perez said. "I was ready for the fastball."
By the time the eighth inning was over, the Blue Jays were down by five. That meant Edwin Encarnacion's two-run homer in the ninth was merely window dressing.
"We just got hit tonight," Gibbons said. "And we didn't help things out when we let guys take the extra base and miss cutoff men. You aren't going to win that way."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.