The wheels have come off for Kansas City Royals left-hander Jason Vargas, who earned an All-Star berth with a sensational first half, only to unravel during the stretch run. Vargas will be looking to snap a four-start losing streak when the Royals go for a split of their four-game series against the visiting Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
On the verge of falling 5 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second wild card, Kansas City may have saved its season by rallying for a 5-2 victory on Saturday in what manager Ned Yost termed “a game we had to have.” Alex Gordon hit a tying homer in the seventh inning - his first blast since July 3 - and the Royals added three runs in the eighth to draw within 3 1/2 games of the Twins. Although its three-game winning streak was snapped, Minnesota came away with some positives - it maintained its two-game edge over the Los Angeles Angels in the wild-card chase and Byron Buxton ended an 0-for-18 swoon with a homer among two hits. The ageless Bartolo Colon, plucked off the scrap heap by the Twins in July, takes a 15-10 career record against Kansas City into Sunday’s start - his third-highest win total against any opponent.
TV: 2:15 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Kansas City
PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Bartolo Colón (6-11, 6.06 ERA) vs. Royals LH Jason Vargas (14-10, 4.23)
Colon has been more than serviceable since he was picked up following his release from Atlanta, although he was a hard-luck loser last time out at Tampa Bay after yielding two runs over 6 2/3 innings. It was the third consecutive quality start for the 44-year-old Dominican, who is 4-3 with a 3.94 ERA with the Twins. Melky Cabrera has been a tough matchup for Colon, going 5-for-8 with a double and triple.
Vargas was 12-3 with a 2.22 ERA entering the month of July, but his regression has been startling - he was hammered for seven runs in two innings at Detroit last time out and has been battered for 20 runs over 17 2/3 frames during the four-start skid. He capped a seven-start winning streak on June 30 by allowing one run and two hits over seven innings. Joe Mauer is batting .368 (14-for-38) against Vargas.
1. Royals 1B Eric Hosmer, who knocked in the go-ahead run Saturday, is 7-for-10 in the series.
2. Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar has homered in consecutive games and is 12-for-32 with nine extra-base hits in his last eight.
3. Royals CF Lorenzo Cain has recorded three three-hit performances in his last seven contests, with two coming against Minnesota.
PREDICTION: Twins 6, Royals 5