KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jason Vargas goes into every game he starts expecting to make it to the end.
Thanks to a bunch of double plays, he made it Friday night.
The veteran left-hander tossed his first shutout in nearly three years, outdueling Royals nemesis Josh Tomlin and sending Kansas City to a 4-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Vargas (7-3) allowed seven hits over the first six innings but deftly induced double plays in four of them to escape any trouble. He then set down the Indians in order the rest of the way, making a nifty grab of Carlos Santana’s liner in the ninth to end it.
It was Vargas’ first shutout since a 3-0 victory over Oakland on Aug. 13, 2014.
“The double plays were huge,” he said. “They were the reason I was able to stay in the game. It really sets the tone when you’re able to put two guys away with one swing.”
Vargas also beat the Indians last weekend, allowing two runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 5-2 victory.
“It says a lot about Vargas that we’ve faced him three times this year and he’s able to go out there and throw a 100-pitch shutout,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He pitched really well.”
The Royals scored their first run off Tomlin (3-7) with two down in the sixth when Lorenzo Cain beat out an infield single — he was initially ruled out, but the call was quickly overturned.
Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 17 games with an RBI double in the seventh, and Mike Moustakas belted his 14th homer and Eric Hosmer delivered an RBI double in the eighth.
That gave Vargas enough cushion that closer Kelvin Herrera stopped warming up in the bullpen.
“That’s what you love as an infielder, a guy who pounds the zone. Works quick,” Merrifield said after a game that lasted just 2 hours, 19 minutes. “It’s great for the defense. Keeps us in rhythm.”
It was still another solid performance by Tomlin against the Royals. He tossed a six-hit complete game when the teams met last month, and he was 10-4 against Kansas City in his career.
Tomlin only allowed two singles in the second before Escobar’s base hit in the sixth got things going. Escobar went to second on a wild pitch and third on a groundout before Cain came to bat.
The Royals’ outfielder chopped a pitch into the dirt in front of the plate and took off for first base. Tomlin rushed off the mound and fielded it cleanly, and snapped a throw to Santana at first base, where umpire Ed Hickox signaled that Cain was out by a step.
The Royals challenged the call as the Indians started toward the dugout, and it only took 1 minute, 15 seconds for the ruling to be overturned and Kansas City to take a 1-0 lead.
“It was a close play and then I saw it on the board,” Tomlin said. “It was just a tough play. The ball was put in the right spot. If I’m a little quicker, he’s out and that run wouldn’t have scored.”
Meanwhile, Vargas only allowed one baserunner past second, and he was stranded by an inning-ending double play in the first. Vargas also got double plays in the second, fourth and sixth, and would have had another in the third if Daniel Robertson hadn’t been hustling to first base.
“They always say that double plays are a pitcher’s best friend,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “and Vargas and the double play were snuggled up tight tonight.”
STATS AND STREAKS
Vargas has seven career shutouts, all of them since 2011. … The four double plays that Vargas induced were the most by a Royals pitcher since Vin Mazzaro on June 12, 2011. … The Indians were shut out for the second time this season. … Tomlin is 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA in five road starts.
Indians 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (concussion) had a good workout Friday and could play a rehab game at Double-A Akron this weekend. “He has to get OK’d from the doctor,” Francona said. “If it happened tonight he’d play in Akron tomorrow and we’d go from there.”
Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco tries to continue his road dominance on Saturday afternoon. Carrasco is 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts away from Progressive Field.
Royals RHP Jason Hammel’s only win this season came against Cleveland on May 5, when he allowed one run in six innings. He is 1-6 with a 6.18 ERA this season.