Jason Vargas is a cyborg. It makes no sense, but... Jason Vargas is a cyborg.
The result of the Royals’ 8-1 series-opening victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night was Jason Vargas’ 12th win of the year. He is the only pitcher in the AL to have that many wins. Only one pitcher in baseball also has 12 wins - his name is Clayton.
From the early going, it didn’t appear that Vargas was going to have one of his better starts. He battled poor command all night (he walked a season-high four batters), but as he’s done all year, every time he needed to make a big pitch, he did that. It is miraculous that he only gave up one run in seven innings, but he had C+ stuff all night. It didn’t matter. He’s awesome.
The Twins actually took a 1-0 lead when Miguel Sano, who the Royals are still choosing to pitch to for some reason, lined a two-out RBI single in the third inning. This came right after Brian Dozier nearly had a two-run home run into the right-field corner, but it was ruled just foul and the call was upheld following a replay.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Royals pulled some vintage #RoyalsDevilMagic out of their hats. Ervin Santana entered today with a 2.80 ERA. The Royals shelled him in the fifth, and it was his fault for multiple reasons.
Jorge Bonifacio led off with a single. Lorenzo Cain then hit a comebacker right to Santana, which appeared to be a tailor-made double play. But Santana fired the ball into center field, putting runners on the corners with none out. Predictably, on the very next pitch, Eric Hosmer punished Santana with a three-run homer into the left-field corner. It was the exact opposite of the Brian Dozier play from the previous inning: it was ruled just fair by sneaking inside the left-field pole. Hosmer didn’t even think it was going to be fair; he just kind of slowly walked to first and watched before it dropped on the right side of the pole. It was one of his longest trots around the bases.
The Royals didn’t stop there. Salvador Perez, Jorge Soler, and Alcides Escobar put together singles to score a fourth run. Then Whit Merrifield singled in another run. 5-1, Royals, after an inning that saw 10 men bat.
In the sixth, the Royals added to their lead when Mike Moustakas cranked a solo bomb to right field. It’s his 21st of the year, so for those keeping track, he’s now within 15 of Steve Balboni’s record. It’s gonna happen, folks.
The other two Royals runs came on sacrifice flys from Alex Gordon: one in the sixth inning, and one in the eighth.
In all, the Royals banged out 10 hits in a very Royal-like fashion: a totally balanced strategy. Gordon was the only starter that didn’t have a hit, and he had two RBIs. Soler and Escobar both had two hits, which was encouraging to see.
As for Vargas’ line, he really locked in as the game went on. He finished with just two hits allowed in 7.0 innings of work. His four strikeouts matched his four walks. He needed exactly 100 pitches to get his 21 outs. He’s 12-3 on the year.
Perspective: from 2014-16, Vargas made 42 starts with the Royals. He won 16 of those games. In 2017, Vargas has made 16 starts and he’s won 12 of them. I know that pitcher wins are meaningless and all (they are), but it’s still cool. Since 1993, the most wins in a single season by a Royals pitcher is 16, and that was Zack Greinke in his Cy Young year. Kevin Appier had 18 in 1993. Bret Saberhagen had 23 in 1989, which is the team record.
Peter Moylan and Neftali Feliz handled the eighth and ninth innings to finish the win for the Royals. They are 39-39 heading into tomorrow’s doubleheader.
Tomorrow’s schedule: at 1:10, Luke Farrell will make his MLB debut for the Royals when he gets the ball to oppose Jose Berrios. Then at 7:10 in game two, it’s Jason Hammel and Felix Jorge, who is also making his MLB debut. On paper, this seems like an obvious split, but...we’ll see. Winning both would be nice.