Vargas dazzles as Royals win 3-1 to snap 8-game skid vs A’s
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jason Vargas carried a shutout into the eighth, the Royals finally generated some early offense and Kansas City held on to beat Oakland 3-1 on Thursday night and snap an eight-game skid against the A’s.
Vargas (2-0) scattered four hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings, striking out eight, in his second straight crisp performance. The left-hander only allowed one runner to reach second base in his longest outing since Aug. 13, 2014, when Vargas shut out the Athletics at Kauffman Stadium.
Kelvin Herrera served up a homer to Rajai Davis and a double to Jed Lowrie in the ninth, but bounced back to retire the next three batters and earn his first save.
Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez drove in runs off A’s starter Jesse Hahn (0-1) in the first, and Brandon Moss added a lazy sacrifice fly in the third. The three runs matched what Kansas City’s scuffling offense had managed in losing the first two games of the series.
Hahn settled down to last six innings, allowing six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
Vargas missed most of last season following Tommy John surgery, but he pitched well in the handful of starts he made late in the year, leaving the Royals optimistic about his spot in the rotation.
He also doubled down on his conditioning while his elbow was recovering, and arrived to training camp leaner and more athletic. And that paid off in the seventh inning, when Vargas deftly leaped off the mound to snare a hard bounder and start a double play to escape his only real jam.
Things weren’t nearly as tidy for the A’s, who committed two more errors in the series finale. They came into the game tied for the American League lead with nine, and have committed at least one error in seven consecutive games — matching their longest streak from last season.
The Royals became the last team in the big leagues to commit an error of their own when Alcides Escobar booted a grounder with two outs in the eighth. Vargas was lifted afterward to a standing ovation, and Joakim Soria promptly got Marcus Semien to ground out and end the inning.
Oakland RHP Sonny Gray (lat strain) threw two 15-pitch stints to batters prior to the game and had no issues. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Gray will throw three innings Monday at extended spring training and could rejoin the Oakland rotation by the end of April.
Royals manager Ned Yost said he’s not worried that fans are antsy about his club’s poor start. “It just shows when they panic, they care about you and they want to win,” he said. “That’s fine.”
Oakland RHP Kendall Graveman will try to start the season with three straight wins when he faces Houston on Friday night. It’s the start of a 10-game homestand for the A’s.
Kansas City sends LHP Danny Duffy to start a three-game series against the Angels on Friday night.