KANSAS CITY -- The evening started with talk of a possible six-man rotation for the Blue Jays and ended with talk about Thursday's one-man bullpen.
Left-hander Aaron Loup was setup man and closer all rolled into one in a 7-3 victory over the Royals as the Blue Jays opened the month of May on a high note. Toronto grabbed a 4-3 lead on Colby Rasmus' solo homer in the sixth. But the way the Blue Jays' bullpen had been surrendering leads in recent days, it still seemed a long way to the finish line when Loup replaced starter Mark Buehrle with two outs and none on in the seventh.
Loup not only finished the seventh, but then breezed through the eighth and ninth as well. He retired all seven hitters that he faced with just 22 pitches. It was an old-fashioned save that took some pressure off a beleaguered bullpen and enabled the Blue Jays to enjoy their late-night flight to Pittsburgh, where they will open an Interleague series on Friday.
"This was definitely a big win," Loup said. "It was a close game, back and forth, for a long time. We were able to hold the lead for once. Hopefully, this will get us on a roll."
Loup didn't mind extending to 2 1/3 innings. The Blue Jays' hitters helped with a three-run rally in the eighth that made Loup's job easier.
"When things are going good, I don't mind going out there for more than an inning," Loup said. "I got strike one for the most part and they were up there swinging early. ''
Loup's ability to seal the deal capped a night sprinkled with several positive developments. Buehrle was solid again as he worked 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs (two earned). The veteran lefty is 5-1 with four quality starts in six appearances.
Buehrle was aided by nifty outfield play from left fielder Anthony Gose and center fielder Rasmus. Gose, called up on Thursday with Melky Cabrera slowed by a shin contusion, threw out Eric Hosmer at the plate in the third inning that kept Kansas City from building a 3-1 lead. Rasmus made a fine running catch on Alcides Escobar's drive that prevented the potential tying run to cross in the sixth.
"I need good defense behind me because the ball is going to be put in play," Buehrle said. "I don't strike guys out."
Rasmus had been struggling to find the groove offensively through the opening month, but he was able to handle a 1-2 pitch from Jeremy Guthrie for the go-ahead homer to right in the sixth. Five of Ramsus' 19 hits have been homers.
"Hitting home runs is his game," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He has been scuffling. But I've said all along that when he gets hot, he can do that for awhile. That's big for him confidence-wise and big for us."
Guthrie wanted to throw Rasmus a slider down and in, but didn't locate the pitch where he wanted. After the inning ended with the Blue Jays up 4-3, Guthrie threw the ball into the stands as he walked off the mound.
"I got within one pitch of giving us a chance to win that game late and it's just frustrating," Guthrie said.
The Blue Jays trailed 2-1 when Juan Francisco's two-run homer in the fourth gave Buehrle the lead for the second time. The resilient Royals tied it again on Billy Butler's RBI double, but Rasmus' blast and the three-run spurt against reliever Michael Mariot in the eighth prevented a series sweep.
"The last week hasn't been good," Buehrle said. "We came out today with the feeling that we at least wanted to take one in this series. There's nothing we could do about the first two, so that was the mentality."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.