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The Sports Xchange, Published April 18 2014

Twins shutout in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Left-hander Jason Vargas entered the season with little fanfare for the Kansas City Royals. James Shields was the team’s established ace, and rookie Yordano Ventura was expected to make a splash as well.

But Vargas (2-0) is not playing second fiddle to anybody as he improved to 2-0 with a seven-inning gem Friday night. He scattered seven hits over seven scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.24. The Royals improved to 8-0 when scoring at least four runs with a 5-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins atKauffman Stadium.

“It wasn’t easy,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “His first two innings, he really battled his command. He got better in the third and then he really cruised in the fourth, fifth and sixth and into the seventh.”

Vargas deflected the praise to his mates.

“Defense,” he said when asked what was working for him. “The defense really saved us. I got that pitch count up early, and I was fortunate to have some short innings. The defense really helped with that.

“When Gordo (left fielder Alex Gordon) makes that throw, and we turned that double play (in the fourth inning), it was just a good all-around defensive game. It really helped out.”

It was the fourth straight victory for Kansas City, which entered the streak with the worst record in theAmerican League. The Royals now are tied with the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American LeagueCentral.

“We’re swinging the bats better, there’s no doubt about that,” Yost said about the team’s hot streak. “(Third baseman Mike Moustakas) is finally starting to get some results. He’s putting good swings on the ball. (Shortstop Alcides Escobar) is up to .295 with three hits tonight. He’s really swinging the bat well. (second baseman) Omar (Infante) with two RBIs and two knocks tonight. Those things are all key for us.”

Moustakas connected on his second home run in three games in the bottom of the sixth to give Vargas a cushion.

His 389-foot blast to right field drove home designated hitter Billy Butler to give the Royals the 5-0 lead.

“I put a good swing on it,” Moustakas said. “I got a 3-2 breaking ball and stayed on it pretty good, and I was able to drive it out.”

When asked if he thought he missed his chance a pitch before when he drove a long foul into deep right field, he smiled and said, “No, because he had to throw another pitch.”

The Royals are near the bottom of the American League in runs with 52 (3.47/game). But with a team ERA of 2.82, that’s good enough to be above .500.

“(Vargas) was very good,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve faced him two times in the last week. He has a great change-up. He was cutting his fastball and was running it. He kept us off balance and we didn’t do too much.”

Twins starter Ricky Nolasco (1-2) gave up five runs on 11 hits over 5 Xc innings. In his last start, he limited the Royals to one run on five hits in eight innings.

“Not a ball hit hard off him for the most part,” Gardenhire said of Nolasco.

“They found some holes, and the big two-run homer by Moustakas hurt him there at the end. But he gave us a chance; we just couldn’t come up with anything on Vargas.”

MIN ab r h bi KC ab r h bi

Mstronn lf 4 0 0 0 Aoki rf 4 1 1 0

Dozier 2b 4 0 1 0 Infante 2b 4 0 2 2

Mauer 1b 4 0 1 0 Hosmer 1b 4 0 2 1

Colbllo rf 4 0 1 0 Perez c 4 0 0 0

Plouffe 3b 4 0 0 0 Gordon lf 4 0 1 0

Pinto dh 3 0 2 0 Butler dh 3 1 1 0

Suzuki c 4 0 1 0 Paredes pr 0 0 0 0

Hicks cf 3 0 1 0 Moustks 3b 4 1 1 2

Flormon ss 2 0 1 0 Maxwell cf 4 0 0 0

Kubel ph 1 0 0 0 Escobar ss 3 2 3 0

Escobar ss 0 0 0 0

Totals 33 0 8 0 Totals 34 5 11 5

Minnesota 000 000 000 — 0

Kansas City 002 012 00x — 5

LOB—Kansas City 6, Minnesota 7. 2B—A.Escobar (4), A.Gordon (5). HR—Moustakas (2).

IP H R ER BB SO

Minnesota

Nolasco L, 1-2 5 Xc 11 5 5 0 3

Tonkin Zc 0 0 0 0 0

Burton 1 0 0 0 0 0

Duensing 1 0 0 0 1 1

Kansas City

Vargas W, 2-0 7 7 0 0 1 4

Crow 1 0 0 0 0 1

Coleman 1 1 0 0 0 0

Inherited runners-scored—Tonkin 1-0.

Umpires—Home, David Rackley; First, Bill Welke; Second, Brian Gorman; Third, Jim Wolf.

T—2:39. A—21,192 (40,052)