First Santana, now Vargas: Hey Angels, keep sending ’em Royals’ way
Maybe, just maybe, general manager Dayton Moore has stolen from the Angels again.
Last year, Moore acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels, and we all know what happened next: Santana had a fabulous season with the Royals, and the Royals now will get an extra first-round draft pick as compensation for Santana signing with the Braves.
This time, Moore plucked Jason Vargas away from the Angels by offering him another year on his contract.
And Vargas no doubt has Royals fans buzzing after turning in a brilliant effort against the Central Division champion Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Vargas went seven innings and gave up five hits and one run with one walk and six strikeouts.
But what really tells the story of Vargas’ day is how he performed against the game’s best hitter, Miguel Cabrera. And that’s a matchup to watch since they’ll be squaring off numerous times this season.
In the first inning, Vargas threw four off-speed pitches to Cabrera as the count moved to 2-2. Then Vargas froze Cabrera with a fastball right down the middle for a called strike three.
Freezing a superstar like Cabrera simply doesn’t happen often.
Even better was how Vargas handled Cabrera during the potentially treacherous sixth inning.
Detroit’s Alex Gonzalez led off with an infield single, and Ian Kinsler followed with a single. An apparent double-play grounder by Tyler Collins was overturned by replay — and as a side note, the Royals had two overturned calls go against them, but both overturns seemed correct.
Anyway, that overturn put runners on first and third with one out, bringing up Cabrera with the score 1-0 Tigers.
Vargas quickly fell behind 2-0, then threw two changeups that fooled Cabrera, who swung at both and missed. A curve barely missed, filling the count.
Then Vargas went off-speed again and Cabrera hit a weak grounder to Mike Moustakas, who made a strong throw to home to nail Gonzalez.
Vargas then promptly struck out Victor Martinez to end the threat.
Vargas had other highlights as well.
After Austin Jackson doubled with one out in the seventh, Vargas calmly struck out Alex Avila and then got Nick Castellanos on a popout to end that threat.
And let’s not forget the fifth inning, when Vargas struck out the side.
It’s just one start, but hey, this is exactly the type of pitcher Moore described when he signed Vargas — a fearless competitor with great command who can gobble up a lot of innings.
Take that, Angels.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.