Royals left-hander Jason Vargas and Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez have a history against each other.
And both were stellar in their previous confrontations.
Vargas, who will oppose Gonzalez at 3:07 p.m. Wednesday in game four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium, was with the Angels when he tossed a complete-game three-hitter and beat Gonzalez and the Orioles 4-0 on May 3, 2013 in Anaheim.
Gonzalez returned the favor a month later with a 3-2 victory over Vargas and the Angels in Baltimore.
“He’s going to challenge our hitters,” Gonzalez said, “and I’m going to do the same thing against them.”
Vargas, who went 11-10 in his first season with the Royals, did not face Baltimore during the 2014 season. He will be making his first appearance since Oct. 2, when the Royals beat the Angels 3-2 in 11 innings in game one of an American League Division Series.
Royals manager Ned Yost could have used game-one starter James Shields, who would have been on four days rest because of Monday’s rainout but chose to keep his rotation on schedule.
“We thought it beneficial to give Shields an extra day and (game-two starter Yordano) Ventura an extra day,” Yost said.
Gonzalez, who went 10-9 this season, faced the Royals once, allowing three runs in a 9-3 loss on April 27 in Baltimore.
He hasn’t pitched since the regular-season finale on Sept. 28 when he went five innings in a 1-0 win at Toronto.
Neither pitcher is concerned about the rust factor.
“I feel fine … definitely rested,” Vargas said. “I’ve never had this much rest. But I’ll be ready to and be ready to try to execute my game plan and execute pitches.”
Gonzalez said: “It’s been two weeks, but I’ve had a couple of bullpens and a live batting practice last Monday. I threw three innings, 50 pitches, felt good. And then I threw a bullpen two days ago. I’m pretty much ready to go. I’m excited.”
While waiting for his next turn, Vargas was prepared to pitch out of the bullpen if needed.
“I knew if I didn’t do that, there was a good chance I’d pitch in game four,” Vargas said. “There was mental preparation for multiple roles throughout this series.”
Vargas had stumbled down the stretch, losing his last four decisions, before he worked six innings and allowed three hits in the ALDS opener at Anaheim, which was the first postseason appearance of his nine-year career. Angels leadoff man Kole Calhoun nearly opened the game with a home run, only to see Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain snatch the ball before it hit the wall.
“I’m sure I’ll have a lot of anxiousness, just like I did in the other one,” Vargas said of pregame nerves. “It might not seem like it on the outside, but there’s a lot of adrenaline going. And definitely in that first one, your body feels a lot different than it normally does.
“So once you get that first one out of the way … Lo Cain caught that ball at the wall, it was a big breath of air … we’ll prepare the same way, and when we get out there, we’ll see what it feels like again.”
Gonzalez, meanwhile, had a strong second half of the season. He went 6-4 after the All-Star break with a 2.22 ERA and opponents hit just .218 against him.
“Confidence,” said Gonzalez, 30. “I moved toward the middle of the pitcher’s plate, and I felt a lot more comfortable there. My first couple of games out of the season weren’t great, but I felt a lot better the second half.”
Vargas’ performance at Anaheim gave him some much-needed confidence for game four.
“Throughout any pitcher’s career, if they’ve had an extended amount of starts, they’re going to have ups and downs and learn how to deal when they’re pitching well and when they’re pitching bad,” said Vargas, 31.
“When you’re able to go out and have another quality outing in a game that really matters … you know everything that’s led up to these games has prepared you … being able to bounce back and execute pitches.”