The last time Jason Vargas stood on the mound at Angels Stadium, he was begging manager Ned Yost to let him face one more batter. It was the sixth inning of the first game of last year’s American League Division Series against the Angels and the Royals were desperate to keep the game tied.
Vargas had just issued a two-out walk to Albert Pujols that placed two men on base. Yost walked to the mound intending to remove Vargas for reliever Kelvin Herrera. When Yost arrived, Vargas was adamant. He could get the next batter, Howie Kendrick, out with his changeup. Vargas was insistent.
So Yost relented. He left the ball in Vargas’ left hand to face Kendrick, a right-handed hitter. Vargas fed Kendrick an 89-mph fastball down the middle. Kendrick crushed the pitch to right-center field.
Lorenzo Cain mis-timed his leap at the wall. A curious thing happened. Nori Aoki threw up a backhand stab. As his face grazed the wall, Aoki caught the ball. The inning was over. The Royals were safe. They would go on to win in extra innings.
And what did Vargas say when the inning was over?
“I told you I’d get him!” he hollered at Yost. It is a story that still makes his manager smile.
Vargas returns to Anaheim with the rest of his team on Friday for an ALDS rematch. Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend:
Friday, 9:05 p.m.: LHP Jason Vargas v. LHP Hector Santiago.
Saturday, 8:05 p.m.: RHP Jeremy Guthrie v. RHP Jered Weaver (0-1, 6.00 ERA).
Sunday, 2:35 p.m.: RHP Yordano Ventura (1-0, 1.50 ERA) v. C.J. Wilson (1-0, 0.00 ERA).
FROM THE STAR
1. Kansas City demolished the White Sox in a season-opening sweep. On Thursday, Edinson Volquez excelled, Lorenzo Cain crashed into walls and the Royals kept rolling.
2. Vahe Gregorian wrote a column about the feel-good story of the day: Paulo Orlando’s big hit, and his big catch, in his big-league debut.
THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)
HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC
“Caro Padre” by Deaf Havana.