The Royals just keep winning! They are an MLB-best 15-6 (that’s 15 out of 21 for those keeping track at home) in June and have finally gotten over .500 for the first time all season. The team that was 21-29 at the end of May now stands at 37-36.
Jason Vargas, as he has done all year, worked around traffic this afternoon and is the first pitcher in MLB to win 11 games in 2017. Eric Hosmer hit a home run and Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon added triples in support.
The Blue Jays were the first on the scoreboard with a Troy Tulowitzki solo home run in the 2nd.
The Royals countered in the third. Escobar hit a "long fly ball that went into the right center gap; (Kevin) Pillar and (Jose) Bautista did not communicate very well and fell in between them" (h/t GreenSapphire). Another witness was quoted as saying "They bumped into each other, too. It was pretty bush league."
Last night’s hero, Whit Merrifield, hit a shallow fly to left and Escobar tagged. Steve Pearce's throw was up the first base line, slowing down Maile’s tag. John Gibbons challenged (much more than 30 seconds in) as there was some doubt as to whether Esky's front foot hit or came off the plate before the tag was applied. Umpire Joe West called him safe initially and the call from New York upheld it. The game was knotted at 1.
In the 4th, Hosmer hit a fly ball up in the wind towards right that kept carrying until Bautista ran out of room. His 9th home run of the season gave the Royals a 2-1 lead.
Jason Vargas scattered hits throughout the afternoon and, generally, kept the Jays off balance with weak contact. He induced inning ending double plays from Troy Tulowitzki and Bautista in the 4th and 5th, respectively. Unfortunately, in the 7th, Jason Vargas's 93rd pitch of the day to Kevin Pillar was deposited just over the Sonic sign in left center and the game was once again tied.
Vargas was finished after that inning with 8 hits, including the 2 home runs, walking none, and striking out two on the day.
For the Blue Jays, Marco Estrada was nearly Vargas’s equal. But they went about it differently: whereas Vargas only had 2 Ks but 0 BBs, Estrada had 6 and 4.
Estrada was at 92 pitches going into the 7th and struck out Brandon Moss on 5 pitches. But then Escobar collected his third hit and second bloop single of the day. Alex Gordon roped pitch number 103 fair down the right field line and it went into the corner. Escobar raced all the way around to score and Gordon ended up at 3rd. Though the Royals got no more runs, 3-2 proved to be the final margin.
Joakim Soria pitched a perfect 8th including strikeouts of Bautista and Russell Martin. Kelvin Herrera's 9th included a strikeout of old friend Kendrys Morales.
Tomorrow, the Royals go for the sweep with Jason Hammel facing Francisco Liriano. The team is red hot, having won 3 in a row, 11 out of 13, and 7 straight series won or tied.
Pending a number of games, they're 2.5 back of Cleveland and 1 back of Minnesota in the AL Central. They're still in the giant cluster of teams in the running for the 2nd Wild Card spot, 1.5 back of Tampa Bay.
FYI: If you noticed the special Los Reales jerseys, it was Hispanic heritage day at the K.