8/31/2013 7:00 P.M. ET
Royals' running game blazing trail to success
New acquistion Bonifacio contributing to MLB-leading stolen base total
By Chris Toman / Special to MLB.com
TORONTO -- One aspect of Kansas City's offense that has been paramount to the team's success is the running game.
The Royals entered Saturday afternoon's tilt against the Blue Jays with a Major League-leading 122 stolen bases, including 35 in the club's previous 20 games. What's most impressive about the Royals' success on the bases, though, is the efficiency at which they've done it.
Kansas City has converted 84 percent of its attempts, which is the second-best success rate in the Majors, trailing only the Red Sox (85 percent).
Manager Ned Yost said while his team is aggressive on the bases, it's selective at the same time, which is what has allowed Royals runners to flourish.
"We don't just run to run, we try to pick our spots," Yost said. "We know that we've got speed, we have athleticism. We try to pick our spots to create run-scoring opportunities."
Yost added that first-base coach Rusty Kuntz deserves all of the praise for the team's success on the bases this season.
"We have done a really, really good job, and it's all led by Rusty Kuntz," Yost said. "He identifies when those spots are, and when we'd have the greatest chance of success every time we do that."
Recent acquisition Emilio Bonifacio is the exact type of player who fits in with what the Royals are trying to do. Bonifacio can play a number of positions in the infield and outfield, but he's also a threat on the bases, too.
The 28-year-old has swiped 21 bases overall, but is a perfect 9-for-9 since joining Kansas City in his first 16 games.
"He has been great," Yost said. "He's very athletic, very speedy and he can bunt. He plays with a lot of energy and he has been a good addition to our team."
In addition to Bonifacio, six other Royals have a double-digit stolen base total, including Elliot Johnson -- who is now on the Braves -- and team-leader Jarrod Dyson with 27.
Yost ejected for the first time this season
TORONTO -- It takes a lot to get Royals manager Ned Yost ejected from a contest. But on Saturday, he had "seen enough" in disputing home-plate umpire Will Little's strike zone.
Yost was ejected in the eighth inning during a pitching change as he voiced his displeasure with Little's called ball that resulted in a second free pass with the bases loaded. The Blue Jays pushed across two runs as they rallied for a 4-2 win at Rogers Centre.
It was Yost's first ejection of the season and 30th of his managerial career.
The skipper felt reliever Aaron Crow was punished for his inability to command the ball within the zone. Crow issued back-to-back four-pitch walks, sending the Royals to their second consecutive loss.
Crow walked Brett Lawrie with game tied at 2 and then Rajai Davis. Yost felt the fourth pitch to Lawrie was "definitely a strike."
"Crow finally throws a strike and it gets called a ball. A strike is a strike," Yost said. "You deserve another opportunity to throw another pitch and see if we can keep the game at [a one-run deficit]."
Yost believes Little was making Crow earn a call, something he doesn't believe is fair.
"I understand he had thrown seven balls in a row up until that point," Yost said. "But when you throw a strike, you get another opportunity in a 3-0 count."
The ejection came a day after Yost argued a questionable call made by Little at first base in Friday's 3-2 loss. Replays appeared to show that speedster Emilio Bonifacio beat out a sacrifice bunt in what turned out to be a critical inning for the Royals.
Santana's record doesn't reflect fine season
TORONTO -- Ervin Santana's win-loss record doesn't tell the full story on just how good of a season he's having.
The Royals right-hander was a hard-luck loser again in Friday night's 3-2 loss in the series opener against the Blue Jays, falling to 8-8 despite allowing two earned runs over seven innings. It marked the 16th time that Santana has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 27 starts.
Manager Ned Yost said what's most impressive is the fact that Santana has rarely been lit up. He has allowed more than four earned runs in a start just three times, while logging at least six innings in all but two outings.
"He has really thrown some great games for us," Yost said. "A lot of those games, he has been matched up against some very good pitchers where run support has been tough to come by."
Yost is right. Among qualified starters in the American League, Santana is getting the 11th-lowest run support at 3.85 runs per game, which has prevented him from winning more ballgames.
Santana has a 3.19 ERA, trailing only ace James Shields' mark of 3.14 among Kansas City starters, and has rebounded well after a rough season with the Angels in 2012. The 30-year-old has cut down his home run and walk rates, while upping his strikeout rate.
A big reason why Santana has done a better job at limiting the long ball -- he has allowed 22 in 180 2/3 innings after surrendering a Major League-high 39 in 178 innings last season -- is he's inducing ground balls at a career-high rate.
Yost said when the Royals acquired Santana in the offseason, Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher told him that he was going to have a big season.
"Butcher told me that every time he has had a so-so year, he has always bounced back and had a great year," Yost said. "He told me when we got him that he is going to have a heck of a year for you guys, and that has proven to be very true."
• The Royals maintained their American League ERA lead after allowing a pair of earned runs in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays. Entering Saturday, Kansas City's pitchers had allowed just six runs in the previous five games, lowering the season ERA to 3.49, just ahead of second-place Detroit (3.63).
• For the first time in a non-strike season since 1989, the Royals have clinched their fourth winning month out of the first five of a year, entering Saturday with a 16-14 record for August. After a 14-10 mark in April, the Royals stumbled to an 8-20 record in May, but rebounded for a 16-11 June and a 15-10 July. The '89 club featured a 16-8 April, 14-13 May, 14-12 June, 13-14 July and 21-8 August, before going 14-15 in the final month.
• Salvador Perez scored a run but went hitless on Friday, yet he's still put together a solid week. Perez has gone 8-for-20 with five runs, a double, three homers and eight RBIs, including a four-hit, two-homer game on Wednesday that was the first such game by a Royals catcher since Darrell Porter in 1977.
Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.