The Kansas City Royals were as short-handed as a Major League Baseball team could be, missing 10 players Thursday night due to Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The Royals still found a way to get by, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 in the first game of a four-game series north of the border.
The Royals became front-page news this week after it was reported that 10 unvaccinated players would be unable to make the trip to Toronto. In order for a foreign national to enter Canada, proof of the COVID-19 vaccine is required.
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Angel Zerpa went five innings for Kansas City, allowing just one earned run on four hits to earn his first win as a big leaguer.
“Every time we’ve seen him he looks like a top-shelf starter,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He came in today against an all right-handed lineup that’s a very potent lineup and kept making good pitches all the way through. It was just a great display of pitching.”
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Kansas City launched two home runs on the night, including a ninth-inning shot from Nate Eaton who was making his Major League debut.
“Right around second base I was jogging and the only voice I could hear was my mom screaming,” Eaton said when discussing his family in the stands. “It was awesome. Those are the people that have been there my entire life and sacrificed so much for me to get to this point. Without them, I couldn’t have been here. To make them proud is pretty awesome.”
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For the 10 players who were unable to make the trip, all were placed on the restricted list and will not be paid for the four games missed.
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“It’s an individual choice,” Matheny said. “The organization’s done a real good job bringing in professionals and experts to talk guys through tough conversations and then put it in their hands to make the decisions they believe is best for them and their families.”
Thursday’s win was the fifth win in six games for Kansas City, moving to 36-53 on the season.
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“That was a ton of fun, man. That was awesome,” Royals second baseball Nicky Lopez said after the win. “Right from pitch one, clawing back and forth, this is obviously one of the better teams in the league. You guys obviously know our situation. It was an unselfish win. It was everyone pulling for each other, pitchers doing their thing. Zerpa got us off to a really good start. And then tack some on.”
The Royals and Blue Jays will play the second game of their four-game series Friday night at 7:07 p.m. eastern.
The Associated Press contributed to this report