Kansas City’s Jason Vargas gave up seven hits, but induced four double play balls by Cleveland bats on the way to a 4-0 complete game shutout of the Indians on Friday night.
It was a night of missed opportunities for the Tribe, who got a well-pitched game from Josh Tomlin. The Indians starter kept the Royals off of the scoreboard through each of the first five innings before the KC bats struck for runs in each of its final three trips. Cleveland had hits in each of the first six innings, but four separate times saw any rally efforts squandered on double play grounders.
Francisco Lindor got the first hit of the ball game with a one-out single to left and Michael Brantley followed with a single of his own to right off of Vargas in the first inning, but a grounder by Carlos Santana to second turned into a twin killing. Edwin Encarnacion started the second with a solid single to center to extend his hitting streak to eleven games, but Jose Ramirez could not leg his way out of a double play as he grounded to third and the ball went around the horn for two before Yan Gomes grounded out to end the inning.
Tomlin ran into some early trouble in the second as the Royals threatened with a pair of two-out singles by Jorge Bonifacio and Brandon Moss, but a liner from Whit Merrifield to right ended the inning with another zero on the board.
Vargas and his best friend were back in the fourth as Brantley laced a single to left, his second of the game. But on cue, two pitches later Santana grounded into his second double play in as many at bats to derail the inning. A pitch later, Encarnacion grounded back to the mound.
The Indians had a rare runner in scoring position in the fifth as Gomes sent a deep drive to left that just missed leaving the yard. Alex Gordon made a leaping effort but could not reel in the double, but it would not matter as Vargas would strike out Austin Jackson and get Daniel Robertson to ground out. The next inning, it was another appearance of the double play ball as Jason Kipnis walked and was doubled up as Lindor grounded sharply to third before the ball went around the diamond for two outs. Brantley would reach on his third straight hit on a grounder to third but after he stole second, Santana lined to third for the third out.
Tomlin retired eleven straight batters after the pair of two-out hits in the second before Alcides Escobar drove a single into center in the sixth with one down. Escobar would move to second on a wild pitch and to third on a grounder by Mike Moustakas for the second out. Lorenzo Cain stepped in and sent a little dribbler between the plate and the mound. Tomlin got to the ball and fired a seed to first, but it was just late, allowing Escobar’s run to score as the Royals took a 1-0 lead, after replay overtuned the initial safe ruling at first.
With a low pitch count and an effective management of Kansas City to that point, Tomlin returned for the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Bonifacio doubled to left, moved to third on a fly to right by Moss, and scored on a double by Merrifield, who extended his hitting streak to match the AL-high this season at 17 games. Tomlin would come back out for the eighth and after retiring Escobar, his night ended as Moustakas sent the next pitch over the wall in right to make it a 3-0 game. Zach McAllister entered in relief and gave up a single to Cain before Eric Hosmer doubled to the wall in left center to extend the lead to 4-0.
It would be more than enough for Vargas, who sliced through the Indians the rest of the way after their threat in the sixth, retiring the last nine batters in order to finish off his complete game seven-hitter. He gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out three behind an economical 103 pitches. With the win, he improved to 7-3 on the season and the Royals moved to 23-30 on the year, one game above even at home at 14-13.
Tomlin took the tough loss, his seventh of the season, despite the quality start. He allowed three runs in seven and one-third innings on the night, striking out five and walking none. The Indians fell to 28-25 and remained unable once again to get to five games over the .500 mark this season.
Game two of the three-game set from Kauffman Stadium is scheduled for a 2:15 PM ET first pitch in Kansas City on Saturday. The Royals will call upon the services of right-hander Jason Hammel (1-6, 6.18 ERA), looking to add a second win against the Indians this season. The Indians will send righty Carlos Carrasco (5-2, 2.89) to the mound, looking to expand on a 3-0 record in May and a quality start his last time out against Oakland, when he allowed two solo home runs and four hits in total with seven strikeouts in a win.
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