The host Toronto Blue Jays will try to take the lead Saturday afternoon in a four-game series against the undermanned Kansas City Royals.

The teams have split the first two games of the series after the Blue Jays won 8-1 Friday night. The Royals, playing the series without 10 roster players, won the opener 3-1 on Thursday.

The Royals have had to use inexperienced players, some making their major league debuts, because of the 10 players who did not meet Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

John Schneider, who improved to 2-1 as interim Blue Jays manager with the win Friday, issued a caution about the series against the Royals.

“Whenever you’re playing a major league game, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side,” Schneider said. “It’s a major league game and it’s going to be hard to win. Records are kind of thrown out the window. Just like the last series against the (Philadelphia) Phillies and the next series against the (Boston) Red Sox, it’s a chance for us to win. That’s how we’re going to approach it.”

Schneider was promoted to interim manager from bench coach after Charlie Montoyo was fired on Wednesday.

Alek Manoah pitched the way he does against any version of the Royals on Friday, allowing one run in seven innings. He is 3-0 in three career starts against the Royals.

Teoscar Hernandez and Matt Chapman hit three-run home runs for Toronto.

“They came out and punched us (Thursday), so for us to answer back is huge,” Chapman said. “Not looking past (Saturday), but going into the All-Star break with three wins would be huge. Every game is obviously important.”

The Royals will start left-hander Daniel Lynch (3-7, 4.92 ERA) on Saturday. In two career starts against Toronto, Lynch is 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA.

The Blue Jays have not announced a starter, but right-hander Max Castillo (0-0, 2.30 ERA) has made one start in his rookie season and is a possibility. He has never faced the Royals.

The Royals, supplemented by eight players from the minors, are having plenty of firsts. Nate Eaton homered on Thursday in his major league debut. Nick Pratto had his first two major league hits Friday in his second major league game.

“Some of those guys I’ve gone through the minors with, ups and downs,” Pratto said. “It’s something that you can’t really explain to people. We’ve been through things together that nobody else knows about. So it’s really cool to see everybody here, laughing in the clubhouse and getting ready to go compete.”

While things went more the way people were expecting on Friday, there was a special feeling for the Royals on Thursday.

“One of the best wins of the year, all things considered,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “We feed off these guys, and they’re just. … I don’t know if I’ve seen a (happier) group. It felt like playoffs. You can just see the true care and concern they have, the excitement they have, for the young players that have stepped in here and helped us win a major league game. That’s special.”

The Royals reinstated right-hander Josh Staumont (neck) from the injured list on Friday and recalled right-hander Carlos Hernandez from Triple-A Omaha. Left hander Angel Zerpa, the winning pitcher of the series opener on Thursday, was returned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Hernandez allowed four runs in four relief innings on Friday.

–Field Level Media