Vargas wins 18th as Royals defeat Tigers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jason Vargas did not win a game last season, but is tied for the major league lead in victories this year.
Vargas claimed his 18th victory, and Whit Merrifield scored a run and drove in a run as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Detroit Tigers 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Vargas (18-10) picked up his first win over the Tigers since June 16, 2014. He surrendered one run on five hits over six innings, throwing 54 strikes in 82 pitches. He walked one and struck out three.
Vargas matches Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most victories in the majors. His 18 wins are the most by a Kansas City pitcher since 1993 when Kevin Appier won 18.
“Getting pitches down in the strike zone again and eliminating their opportunities hitting hard it in the air,” Vargas said was the key. “I felt like we did a good job of playing defense and just staying in the game.”
Vargas threw only 12 innings in three September starts last year after having reconstructive left elbow surgery in July 2015.
“I thought he threw great,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He commanded his pitches down in the zone, changed speeds really effectively. He did a great. He gave us a chance to win.”
The Minnesota Twins rallied to beat the Cleveland Indians 8-6 to officially eliminate the Royals from postseason play.
“We’ve still got games to play,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I’m not going to sit here and reflect on that right now.”
Relievers Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria and Mike Minor preserved the one-run lead after Vargas’ departure. Minor logged his third save.
“Minor we haven’t seen in a save situation before,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “We got the leadoff hit, then the double play and the strikeout, so it was pretty easy for him in the ninth.”
Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-6) pitched his third straight quality start but absorbed the loss. He surrendered two runs on seven hits over six innings, throwing 63 strikes in 98 pitches.
“I feel really good,” Sanchez said. “I think right now I found out a way to finish the hitter. Before the last two outings I wasn’t able to finish the hitter and I just leave the ball right in the middle and, you know, a lot of homers. But, I found out the way to strike out guys, get a ground ball and finish the inning, you know, to cut off the rally, to be able to throw the last three outings for six innings.”
The Tigers got on the board first in the third inning.
With one out, rookie JaCoby Jones drew a walk and stole second. Ian Kinsler’s two-out single up the middle scored Jones. It was Kinsler’s 24th hit in 66 at-bats against Vargas.
Merrifield drilled a double down the left field line to lead off the Kansas City fourth. He moved to third on a Lorenzo Cain groundout and scored on Eric Hosmer’s flare opposite-field double to tie the score. It was Hosmer’s 189th hit this season.
After Salvador Perez walked, Mike Moustakas struck out swinging and slammed his batting helmet down in frustration.
The Royals forged ahead with a run in the fifth.
Brandon Moss led off the inning with a single and advanced to third on Alex Gordon’s dribbler up the middle for a single. Merrifield’s sacrifice fly to right fielder Nicholas Castellanos got Moss home.
Kansas City had a chance to pad its lead after Cain singled and Sanchez’s wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Melky Cabrera flied out to center to end the inning.
The Tigers grounded into five double plays.
“He (Vargas) was throwing changeups,” said Detroit third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who singled in the second and grounded into a double play in the fourth. “He wants us to chase and go in front, but you’ve got to look for your pitch and be ready on the pitch. You’ve got to be prepared for the mistake because he will throw some changeups up and you’ve got to be ready.”
NOTES: Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera, who has two herniated discs in his back, will get a second opinion after a Sunday MRI reading. It has not been determined whether he will play again this season. ... Tigers OF Tyler Collins is still out with a strained intercostal. ... Royals manager Ned Yost said 1B Eric Hosmer would be the designated hitter again Wednesday, while C Salvador Perez and CF Lorenzo Cain would sit. ... Tigers RHP Jordan Zimmermann and Royals RHP Jason Hammel are the Wednesday probables.