Royals

Back along the bay, Jason Vargas and Royals roll over Giants 8-1

As his team enjoyed a day off on Monday, Royals manager Ned Yost spent his morning strolling around the sidewalks of Fisherman’s Wharf, the iconic tourist trap in this city by the bay.

He sauntered past restaurants along the water. He passed souvenirs stores and candy shops. He navigated the crowds of tourists and pedestrians, gawking at the seals and looking out toward Alcatraz. As he kept walking, Yost would say, he kept looking around, taken aback by the number of Royals hats and Kansas City fans on the streets. One couple, Yost said, told him they had ridden their motorcycle from their home in Kansas City. Others just wanted to say hello.

It had been 12 years since the Royals’ last regular-season series here, three since they battled the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series, and one night later, they returned to AT&T Park and made themselves at home here, too, scoring an 8-1 knockout over the on Tuesday in the first game of a brief two-game set. A smattering of blue was present inside the stadium’s concourses and sections. They saw a complete performance.

Starter Jason Vargas maintained his dominant form, allowing just one run in seven innings and lowering his ERA to 2.10. The offensive attack was opportunistic and relentless, swarming Giants starter Ty Blach with an array of bleeders, bloopers and broken bats. The formula resulted in a third straight win on this West Coast road trip, and for the first time since May 14, the Royals (29-34) crept within five games of .500.

“Guys were aggressive, swinging the bats well,” said second baseman Whit Merrifield, who finished 2 for 5 with a three-run triple. “We put a lot of balls in play. And [it was] one of those games where balls were dropping for us.”

Is a baseball team that sits five games under still in contention? This is not a riddle but rather a question worth asking as Vargas pitched like an ace for another night and the Royals pulled to within three games of second-place Cleveland, the preseason favorite in the American League Central. For now, the Royals remain five games behind first-place Minnesota and just as close to last place as third place. Danny Duffy is still on the disabled list. But as they began a nine-game road trip against two bottom feeders — the Padres and Giants — they have taken advantage of the moment.

On Tuesday, the Royals scored at least eight runs for a third straight game, striking for two runs against Blach in the third on a bases-loaded single from Jorge Bonifacio and exploding for six runs in the sixth. Both rallies were aided by a mix of good fortune on the placement of batted balls and some clutch hitting.

“We really excelled with the bases loaded tonight,” Yost said.

The last time the Royals were inside AT&T Park was Game 5 of the 2014 World Series, when Madison Bumgarner delivered a shutout. Three years later, Bumgarner is on the disabled list, the result of a dirt-bike accident in April. The Giants (26-40) are in last place, tied with the lowly Padres. The Kansas City offense had no problem putting up runs.

In the third, the Royals loaded the bases on an Alcides Escobar single through first baseman Brandon Belt, a broken-bat single from Alex Gordon, and a bunt single from Vargas, who placed it perfectly down the third-base line. That led to two runs when Bonifacio delivered a single to center field.

In the sixth, Escobar slapped a two-run double to right field and Merrifield cleared the bases with two outs on a shallow fly ball down the line that eluded right fielder Hunter Pence.

“It was one of those you don’t hit very well, but you kind of see it going in a good spot,” Merrifield said. “I kind of saw it dying … those are beautiful when they happen.”

In this case, beauty was a baseball bouncing off the ground, under the glove of a diving Pence, and rolling toward the wall. Merrifield sprinted into third base, scoring on another RBI hit from Bonifacio.

“The sixth inning was a big one,” Yost said. “That gave us a lot of breathing room.”

The Royals finished with 15 hits, with six players recording multi-hit games. They have piled up 28 runs in their last three games. And yet, the most impressive performance of the night belonged to Vargas, who struck out six and walked one while throwing 102 pitches. When the night ended, Vargas was second in the American League in ERA behind Houston’s Dallas Keuchel. Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland put a simple phrase atop his notes from the game: “Vintage Vargy.”

“He moved his fastball around,” Eiland said. “He pitched in just enough to get them off down and away. He changed speeds. He elevated when he had to. It was just vintage Vargas.”

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Royals 8, Giants 1

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

5

1

2

3

0

0

.285

Bonifacio rf

4

0

2

3

1

0

.262

Cain cf

5

1

1

0

0

1

.264

Hosmer 1b

4

1

1

0

1

2

.313

Perez c

5

0

2

0

0

1

.277

Moustakas 3b

5

1

2

0

0

0

.278

Escobar ss

5

2

2

2

0

0

.184

Gordon lf

3

2

2

0

2

1

.188

Vargas p

4

0

1

0

0

1

.250

Wood p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Totals 40

8

15

8

4

6

San Francisco

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Span cf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.253

Dyson p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Nunez 3b

4

0

1

0

0

2

.299

Belt 1b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.233

Posey c

3

1

2

0

0

0

.352

Hundley c

1

0

0

0

0

0

.231

Pence rf

3

0

0

0

1

0

.235

Crawford ss

3

0

0

1

0

0

.243

Hill 2b

3

0

0

0

1

0

.173

Slater lf

3

0

2

0

0

1

.357

Blach p

2

0

0

0

0

0

.150

Gearrin p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Tomlinson ph

1

0

0

0

0

1

.300

Strickland p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Hernandez cf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.196

Totals 31

1

5

1

2

6

Kansas City

002

006

000

8

15

0

San Francisco

010

000

000

1

5

0

LOB—Kansas City 9, San Francisco 6. 2B—Perez (11), Moustakas (12), Escobar (11), Gordon (8), Nunez (16), Posey (10). 3B—Merrifield (3). RBIs—Merrifield 3 (23), Bonifacio 3 (20), Escobar 2 (18), Crawford (26). SF—Crawford. DP—San Francisco 2.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Vargas, W, 9-3

7

5

1

1

1

6

2.10

Wood

2

0

0

0

1

0

7.61

San Francisco

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Blach, L, 4-4

5.2

10

7

7

1

4

4.24

Gearrin

1.1

3

1

1

2

0

1.67

Strickland

1

1

0

0

1

1

1.82

Dyson

1

1

0

0

0

1

11.21

Inherited runners-scored—Gearrin 3-3. T—2:38. A—41,284 (41,915).

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