Vargas, Royals win pitching duel with Giants, Bumgarner
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Madison Bumgarner has been one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game for several years.
On Wednesday night, Kansas City Royals left-hander Jason Vargas was better than the San Francisco Giants ace, winning 2-0.
Vargas (3-0) struck out nine, one shy of his career high, walked none and allowed four hits in seven innings. He was removed after 92 pitches, 61 of them strikes.
"The changeup makes him," Giants acting manager and bench coach Ron Wotus said. "He's got a heckuva changeup. I thought his command was outstanding. He moved the ball around the zone, changed speeds. He didn't get many balls up or leave them out over the plate."
Vargas, who missed most of last season after 2015 Tommy John surgery, lowered his ERA to 0.44.
"At the end of the year last year, I watched him throw 12 innings and he ended up giving up two runs," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was just fantastic, which really gave me a sense of relief going into the winter that we were going to have a really good starter out of the starting gate."
The Royals starting pitchers, led by Vargas, have a 0.65 ERA in the past six games, allowing three earned runs in 41 2/3 innings.
Bumgarner, who went 2-0 plus a five-inning save in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series against the Royals, allowed one run and seven hits while walking one and striking out four in six innings. He received cheers and jeers during the introductions.
"It was a little mixed," Bumgarner said. "I don't know if that was Giants fans and Royals' fans. At the same time, I'm probably not the best person to ask. It's pretty close to game time and I'm pretty locked in mentally to what I've got to do."
Bumgarner (0-3) is still looking for his first victory this season after four starts, but for the third straight start he has been supported with one or no runs.
After Vargas' departure, Joakim Soria worked a spotless eighth and has yet to give up a run in eight innings this season.
Kelvin Herrera worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth to collect his third save in four opportunities.
The Royals closed out the homestand with five victories in six games to even their record at 7-7.
The Royals got their second run in the eighth off George Kontos. Eric Hosmer sliced an opposite-field double with one out and scored on Salvador Perez's single.
The Royals managed to score a run off Bumgarner in the fifth. Paulo Orlando's ground-ball single to left with one out started it. Orlando on a delayed steal swiped second. The Giants challenged the ruling, but after a 2:16 delay, the call on the field stayed.
Orlando took third on Alex Gordon's groundout. He scored on Mike Moustakas' infield single to first baseman Brandon Belt, who knocked the ball down. Bumgarner was late in covering first, allowing Moustakas to beat the throw and get Orlando home.
"I broke a little bit late getting to first there and got my feet tangled up a little bit," Bumgarner said. "It's easy to take Belt for granted because he's such a good defensive first baseman. I should have been there a little sooner and saved that run."
Bumgarner's split-second delay before racing to first proved costly.
"I'm sure he wished he's have that one back," Wotus said. "You don't see that from him very often. That was the difference in the game."
Moustakas had a head first slide into the bag.
"I definitely would have been out if I hadn't," Moustakas said.
The Royals had a chance to pad their lead after Lorenzo Cain drilled a double into the left-field corner with Moustakas stopping at third. Hosmer flied out to shallow left to strand the runners.
The Royals' struggles with runners in scoring position continued early. They went 0-for-3 with RISP in the second and third innings after going 1-for-11 in the loss Tuesday.
Gordon and Moustakas singled with one out in the third off Bumgarner, only the second and third hits he has yielded this season to left-handed hitters. Bumgarner stranded them on Cain and Hosmer groundouts.
Cheslor Cuthbert scolded a ball that third baseman Eduardo Nunez caught to end the second with Whit Merrifield on third and Alcides Escobar, who had doubled, on second.
Vargas retired the first 10 Giants he faced, striking out six, before giving up a fourth-inning single to Belt, who stopped at second on Buster Posey's two-out single. Brandon Crawford popped up to Escobar to end the inning.
NOTES: Aaron Hill made his second career start in left field. He has also started two at second base and one at third base this season for the Giants. ... 2B Raul Mondesi, who is hitting .114, was not in the lineup against Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner. Whit Merrifield replaced him at second. ... Cheslor Cuthbert was the Royals DH for the second time this season, although he is in an 0-for-13 skid. ... The Royals open a four-game series Thursday at Texas. Royals LHP Danny Duffy and Rangers RHP Andrew Cashner are the pitching probables. ... The Giants are off Thursday before a weekend series at Colorado. Manager Bruce Bochy, who underwent an ablation procedure Tuesday, is scheduled to rejoin the club Friday after missing the two Kansas City games.