KC Royals, Vargas secure series win in Cleveland despite early ejections
By Colby Wilson
That’s a series win for the KC Royals, who got a gutty start from Jason Vargas and an interesting early-game pick-me-up to take down Cleveland, Saturday afternoon.
KC Royals fans got used to seeing Jason Vargas dominate during the early part of the 2017 season. So used to it, in fact, that watch him get touched up in his last two starts was a little surprising.
Saturday was a mixed bag—Vargas danced around danger on multiple occasions but always seemed to get out of trouble in a 5-2 KC Royals win to give them a series win against Cleveland’s Professional Baseball Team.
The fireworks started early in this one, for good and bad. The KC Royals led off the first by loading the bases after Alcides Escobar reached on an error, Mike Moustakas singled and Lorenzo Cain walked to load the bases with nobody out.
That brought up Eric Hosmer with the sacks full. At 1-2, Hosmer attempted to check his swing and third-base umpire David Rackley rung him up. Hosmer disagreed, vehemently, to the point where both he and Ned Yost were given the heave-ho by plate umpire Bill Welke.
Got their money’s worth too, as you can see.
Salvador Perez hit a sac fly to score Esky, but Jorge Bonifacio struck out on a full count to end a huge early opportunity. When Francisco Lindor homered in the bottom of the first, things were back to square one.
It looked like things might get away from Vargas in the third, when Daniel Robertson singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a Jason Kipnis single before he could record an out. But he settled down and retired Lindor (strikeout), Michael Brantley (flyout) and Carlos Santana (lineout) to end the frame with no further damage.
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Kipnis nearly altered the trajectory of the game an inning later. After back-to-back singles to Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Ramirez—part of a season-high nine hits given up by Vargas, his most since 2015—and a Robertson walk, Kipnis hit a towering flyball down the right field line that flew about 415 feet… and was foul by about two whiskers. Vargas battled back from a 3-0 count to induce a Kipnis pop-up that settled comfortably into Cheslor Cuthbert’s glove, ending yet another potential Cleveland rally.
As much as Vargas was able to work around his mistakes, Danny Salazar was consistently his own worst enemy and it would lead to his ultimate demise, in the game and in the decision. After giving up a one-out double to Bonifacio in the sixth, he issued back-to-back walks to Brandon Moss and Whit Merrifield before being replaced by Boone Logan. Logan then gave up a single to Alex Gordon and was replaced by Nick Goody, who allowed a double (!) to Esky (!!!!), scoring Moss and Merrifield to give the KC Royals a lead they would not relinquish.
Salazar issued five walks in yet another listless performance, allowing six hits, four runs (three earned) and striking out four. His ERA is 5.50. Please, tell me more about how he’s The Next Big Thing™.
Vargas would also be done before the sixth, getting an Austin Jackson double play before turning things over to the bullpen. While the bullpen’s struggles have been well-documented and deservedly so, the Matt Strahm–Peter Moylan–Joakim Soria–Kelvin Herrera quartet was exemplary Saturday afternoon, combining for 3.1 innings of one-hit, five-strikeout ball against one of the AL’s better offenses.
Moustakas, who was 3-for-4 on the day, closed out the scoring with a ninth-inning solo blast against Shawn Armstrong to secure the KC Royals first series win in Cleveland since July 2015. He also robbed Lindor on a pretty diving stop, if you’d like to see that kind of thing.
Next: Mike Minor, the long-relief hero we deserve
Sunday, the KC Royals go for their first sweep in Cleveland since [10 minute Baseball Reference perusal] May 2010 with Danny Duffy set to take the ball against Josh Tomlin. First pitch is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. (CT).