Royals’ Vargas beats Blue Jays for 17th win
TORONTO — Jason Vargas and pitching coach Dave Eiland made a slight adjustment three starts ago, and the Kansas City Royals left-hander has not lost since.
Vargas held the Toronto Blue Jays to two hits and three walks over 6 1/3 innings, and Melky Cabrera had three hits and an RBI on Thursday night as the Royals won the rubber match of the three-game series 1-0.
“Mechanically, (Vargas) just got under the ball a little bit,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Him and (Eiland) made a good adjustment three starts ago, and he’s been really good from that point on. He’s been downhill, he’s been changing speeds well. He definitely was lights out tonight.”
The Royals (75-77) won the season series 4-2 over the Blue Jays (71-82).
Vargas (17-10), who struck out seven, has won three consecutive starts. He is tied with Boston’s Chris Sale and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber for the most wins in the American League.
“After the third inning, I was able to really get under control and start to make some pitches,” Vargas said.
Mike Minor pitched a perfect ninth to earn his second save of the season.
“It was fun,” Minor said. “I like the competition.”
The Royals are 3 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the chase for the American League’s second wild-card spot with 10 games to play.
“It’s a tough road ahead of us, but I think we can do it,” Minor said.
Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ (9-11) allowed seven hits, two walks and one run while striking out six in 6 2/3 innings. He had won his previous three starts.
“We just tried to be aggressive, using pretty much everything,” Happ said. “I felt like the ball had good life tonight, Luke (Maile, the catcher,) did a great job back there, too, I felt like we were on the same page, getting ahead of those guys and trying to be aggressive. You always want to finish strong, and I definitely feel strong right now with the life on the ball.”
The only run of the game was scored in the third inning. Alex Gordon walked with one out, took second on a two-out single by Lorenzo Cain and scored on Cabrera’s single.
“Obviously, we didn’t hit a lick, that’s for sure,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “(Vargas) is having a big year. ... He keeps you off-balance, he’s been around the game a long time. He knows how to add and subtract on his pitches.
“I thought we pitched good, too. Happ was really good, and the bullpen as well. I think (Happ) is throwing the ball just like he did last year, really. He had to get built up after he came back (from an inflamed elbow). Since then, he’s having a nice season.”
Happ induced double-play grounders after the Royals had their first two hitters reach base in the fourth and sixth innings.
In between, he struck out the side in the fifth.
Happ was replaced by Dominic Leone with two outs in the seventh after a walk to Gordon put runners at first and second. Mike Moustakas had opened the inning with a single and was forced at second base by Alcides Escobar on a grounder to third.
Leone ended the inning on a grounder to short by Whit Merrifield that forced Escobar at second.
Peter Moylan replaced Vargas with one out and the bases empty in the seventh inning.
After Kevin Pillar grounded to third for the second out, Ryan Buchter was brought in to face pinch hitter Michael Saunders, who gave way to another pinch hitter, Rob Refsnyder. Refsnyder lined out to second.
Kansas City’s Joakim Soria pitched a perfect bottom of the eighth with two strikeouts.
NOTES: Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista whiffed in the sixth inning to set a club record with 160 strikeouts in a single season. OF Jose Canseco (1998) and INF Kelly Johnson (2012) each struck out 159 times in a season. ... Royals C Salvador Perez had two singles to extend his hitting streak to five games. ... Royals 2B Whit Merrifield and 1B Eric Hosmer were each 0-for-4 to have their hit streaks stopped at six games. ... Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (9-8, 4.84 ERA) will oppose New York Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73) on Friday in the opener of a three-game series that will close out Toronto’s home schedule. ... Royals RHP Jason Hammel (8-12, 5.05) will face White Sox RHP Reynaldo Lopez (2-3, 4.84) Friday to open a three-game series at Chicago.