Jason Vargas will make his second World Series appearance on Saturday.
His second comes on the mound at AT&T Park, when he takes the ball in game four looking to continue what has been a solid postseason.
The first was in 2010. Vargas, pitching for the Mariners at the time, made his way with his wife, Shelley, from their Arizona home to San Francisco to take in game one of that year’s series between the Giants and Texas Rangers.
“Just as a fan of baseball,” Vargas said. “I had never been to one. It was just an electric atmosphere.”
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As it will be when Vargas makes his World Series debut as a player. The Royals are his fifth team in nine major-league seasons, and he’s made the most of his postseason starts.
So has his counterpart, the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong. Both have raised their performances in the playoffs.
Vargas, who went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA in the regular season, opened the American League Division series against the Angels, and started game four of the ALCS against the Orioles. He delivered high-quality performances in each situation.
He went six innings against the Angels, leaving the game with the score tied at 2. Against the Orioles, Vargas pitched 5 1/3 innings, then left with a 2-1 lead that held up as the final score and made him the winning pitcher.
His key postseason stats: Five hits, three runs, eight strikeouts and four walks with a 2.38 ERA. Three of those hits were solo home runs.
“He’s had two great starts,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Great start in Anaheim, great start against Baltimore; we look for him to do the same (Saturday).”
Vargas’ postseason performances have reversed a trend of trouble. He lost five of his last six decisions.
Perhaps the postseason schedule has helped. Instead of getting the ball every fifth day, Vargas had 12 days of rest between his starts against the Angels and Orioles, and by the time he pitches on Saturday it will have been 10 days since the Royals finished the ALCS.
“There were opportunities for more side sessions, working on executing some things that we hadn’t,” Vargas said. “Just some fine-tuning — not anything extraordinary.”
One of his best stretches of Vargas’ 2014 season included a start against the Giants. He was coming off a shutout of the A’s and followed that up with a five-inning stint vs. San Francisco. The Giants had runners on base in each of the first four innings, but Vargas left after five with the score knotted at 2. He gave up nine hits in a game the Royals won 4-2, with Madison Bumgarner taking the loss.
Vogelsong, who didn’t face the Royals this season, is 3-0 in his postseason career. The Giants haven’t lost any of his playoff starts dating to 2012.
Perhaps no pitcher in baseball gets more amped up for the big stage.
“There is extra adrenaline, no question,” said Vogelsong, who went 8-13 with a 4.00 ERA this season. “It’s going to make you throw harder and do some things you don’t normally do on a normal, Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee or Colorado.
“I feel like if I can throw it on the corner at 92 (mph), then if I’m throwing it 94, I should be able to hit the same corner. You just have to know when to let it go and when to try and back yourself down. That’s where experience comes in.”