Royals

Royals hold off Astros 7-5, will win season series against Houston

The pitching showdown Wednesday between Jason Vargas and Dallas Keuchel never materialized because Keuchel didn’t materialize.

Some 10 minutes before the game, Keuchel was announced as a scratch because of an illness, spoiling the first matchup between ERA leaders this late in the season — Keuchel is first, Vargas second — since 2005, according to Elias Sports.

The Royals didn’t mind at all.

They knocked around emergency starter Dayan Diaz in his first major-league start and the Astros bullpen in a 7-5 victory on Wednesday in front of 25,628 at Kauffman Stadium.

“I didn’t know until after I was done with my bullpen,” Vargas said. “I don’t concern myself with that other than you know you’re going to have to pitch a good game because he’s one of the best in the game.”

The outcome pushed the Royals’ record to 26-32 and their mark in the long home stand to 5-4.

With four victories in six games, the Royals have clinched the season series against the Astros, who own baseball’s best record. The teams play their last regular-season game Thursday.

Vargas held up his end of the bargain, giving the Royals five solid innings. It didn’t match the shutout effort of his previous outing at Cleveland, but Vargas provided enough to keep the momentum after Tuesday’s walk-off victory that ended the Astros’ 11-game winning streak.

“He scrapped,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Command was off but he finds ways to grind through it. That’s the mark of a good pitcher.”

The Royals made it two straight over the Astros by scoring in four consecutive innings. Every Royals run scored with two outs.

“I’d say we stayed confident and looked for good pitches,” said Cheslor Cuthbert, who delivered his first three RBI game since July of 2015.

The bottom of the Royals order was especially productive, including second baseman Ramon Torres, called up earlier in the day and making his major league debut.

Torres sliced an RBI double in the fourth inning for his first major-league hit. He added a second hit, an infield single later in the game.

“Very special, he’ll never forget it,” said Royals coach Pedro Grifol, who was interpreting for Torres.

Cuthbert, Alcides Escobar and Torres — hitting 7-8-9 — contributed six hits and six RBIs, and got things started in the second inning off Diaz.

The first run scored in an unexpected way, with Salvador Perez legging home from first on Cuthbert’s double to left.

Perez had singled for the Royals first hit, and with two outs, Cuthbert doubled to the corner. Left fielder Josh Reddick was slow to make a play, and third-base coach Mike Jirschele waved Perez home.

Escobar followed with a sharp single to right that scored Cuthbert.

The Royals had answered the Astros, who got on the board in the second on Brian McCann’s solo home run to center. The blast extended Houston’s streak of games with a homer to 15 and was their major-league leading 94th this season.

Lorenzo Cain’s home run in the third inning, his fourth of the season, landed in about the same place.

Perez opened the fourth with a double off the wall in right center. Escobar poked his second RBI single to right, and Torres followed with his double to right field.

Jorge Bonifacio singled and Cain walked to open the fifth. Moustakas walked to load the bases, and two scored on Cuthbert’s single to right.

The Royals held off an uprising in the eighth when the Astros scored three, the final two on an Escobar error with the bases loaded. Kelvin Herrera closed it out for his 13th save.

Vargas, who improved to 8-3 and struck out five, won his third straight decision and remains among the American League leaders in several categories. He’s second to Keuchel in ERA at 2.18 and victories.

Drew Butera finished the game behind the plate after Perez took a pitch off his left thumb on a pitch from Scott Alexander in the eighth inning. Yost said Perez’s status is “day to day.”

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

Royals 7, Astros 5

Houston

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Springer rf

3

0

1

0

1

2

.281

Reddick lf

5

0

1

0

0

0

.271

Altuve 2b

3

0

1

0

1

0

.326

Correa ss

5

0

0

0

0

3

.307

Beltran dh

5

1

1

0

0

2

.248

McCann c

5

2

4

2

0

1

.271

Gurriel 1b

5

0

1

0

0

2

.275

Bregman 3b

3

1

1

0

1

0

.249

Marisnick cf

4

1

1

1

0

1

.250

Totals

38

5

11

3

3

11

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield lf

5

0

1

0

0

1

.296

Bonifacio rf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.276

Cain cf

3

2

1

1

1

1

.262

Hosmer 1b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.309

Perez c

4

2

2

0

0

1

.268

Butera c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.239

Moustakas dh

3

0

0

0

1

1

.271

Cuthbert 3b

4

1

2

3

0

2

.203

Escobar ss

4

1

2

2

0

1

.183

Torres 2b

4

0

2

1

0

0

.500

Totals

35

7

11

7

2

10

Houston

010

100

030

5

11

0

Kansas City

021

220

00x

7

11

1

E: Escobar (4). LOB: Houston 11, Kansas City 6. 2B: Springer (10), Beltran (13), Perez (10), Cuthbert (4), Torres (1). HR: McCann (8), off Vargas; Cain (4), off Diaz. RBIs: McCann 2 (29), Marisnick (11), Cain (15), Cuthbert 3 (10), Escobar 2 (15), Torres (1). S: Altuve.

Runners left in scoring position: Houston 6 (Springer, Altuve, Correa 2, Beltran, Gurriel); Kansas City 3 (Merrifield, Hosmer, Escobar). RISP: Houston 4 for 14; Kansas City 4 for 13. Runners moved up: Reddick, Gurriel.

Houston

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Diaz, L, 0-1

2 2/3

4

3

3

0

3

44

13.50

Sipp

1

3

2

2

0

1

26

4.50

Feliz

1 1/3

2

2

2

2

3

32

2.67

Gregerson

2

2

0

0

0

3

33

4.88

Giles

1

0

0

0

0

0

7

4.07

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Vargas, W, 8-3

5

6

2

2

1

5

89

2.18

Minor

1 2/3

1

0

0

1

1

21

2.01

Moylan

 1/3

0

0

0

0

1

5

7.32

Alexander

 2/3

3

3

1

1

1

18

1.80

Soria

 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

10

3.70

Herrera, S, 13

1

1

0

0

0

3

13

4.12

Hold: Soria (9). Inherited runners-scored: Feliz 1-0, Moylan 2-0, Soria 3-2. HBP: Vargas (Springer).

Umpires: Home, Doug Eddings; First, Cory Blaser; Second, Jeff Nelson; Third, Laz Diaz. Time: 3:11. Att: 25,628.

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