Royals' Vargas faces M's, seeking 13th win (Jul 05, 2017)

BY AP • July 5, 2017

SEATTLE -- Salvador Perez had a simple answer when asked why Kansas City Royals teammate Jason Vargas should be the starting pitcher for the American League in next week's All-Star Game in Miami.

"He's got the most wins in the American League," said Perez, who will be the league's starting catcher, making for a potential Royals battery. "I'd be excited (if Vargas started). I want to catch him."

Vargas, a 34-year-old left-hander who is 12-3, not only leads the AL in wins but also has a league-best 2.22 ERA.

Vargas will get one more chance to state his case to start the All-Star Game when he takes on the Mariners on Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series at Safeco Field. He will be opposed by Seattle left-hander Ariel Miranda (7-4, 3.82 ERA).

"That would be a huge honor," Vargas said Sunday about a potential All-Star start. "Everyone thinks about starting once they've been selected, but there are some pretty good guys at the top of the list who could probably do a great job."

That Vargas is even in the discussion is remarkable considering he had Tommy John surgery in July 2015.

He returned for three starts last September, when most pitchers might have waited until the next spring.

"I was done with rehab, and it was time to get into a game," Vargas said. "I was able to see where I was at and how far I'd gotten."

Royals manager Ned Yost said those three September starts not only let the team know Vargas was healthy, but also set him up for a productive offseason.

"He worked diligently on his rehab over the last year," Yost said. "He had a great winter and hit the ground running in spring training and never looked back."

Vargas is 3-2 with 1.70 ERA in five career starts against the Mariners, for whom he played from 2009-12. He won a career-high 14 games in 2012 for Seattle.

He has not faced the Mariners since 2014.

"He's a competitive guy, went right at guys. You wanted to play behind him," said Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager, one of only two players on the Mariners' current roster who played with Vargas (pitcher Felix Hernandez being the other). "He's going good, finally getting back healthy. I wish him nothing but the best. I'd be fine if he didn't get another win against us, but ..."

The secret to Vargas' success this season?

"Being healthy," Perez said. "If you're healthy, you can do all the things in the field."

Vargas, whose best pitch is his changeup -- "That's pretty much what's kept me around," he said -- also pointed to the control of his fastball.

"I always felt I could make quality pitches with my fastball. I've been able to command that to the (catcher's) glove side of the plate," he said. "That's Pitching 101. I've been able to work off that."

The Royals, who have overcome a 10-20 start to move into a tie for the second and final AL wild-card spot, will be looking to sweep the three-game series in Seattle, where the Mariners have lost their past six games.

"The Royals have got some momentum going, are playing some good ball ... and we're not," Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

Miranda, who will be making his first career appearance against the Royals, is coming off one of his best starts of the season. He threw seven scoreless innings Friday at Anaheim, beating the Los Angeles Angels 10-0. Miranda gave up two hits and two walks while striking out four.

He has allowed more than two runs in only two of his past 10 starts.

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