By Jeffrey Flanagan and Robert Falkoff
KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Jason Vargas continued his dominant start to 2017, tossing seven shutout innings to pick up his third straight victory in a 2-0 triumph over the Giants on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Vargas, who had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and pitched just 12 innings last season, gave up four hits, walked none and struck out nine as he lowered his ERA to 0.44. He has thrown 14 2/3 straight scoreless innings.
"He's got a heck of a changeup," Giants acting manager Ron Wotus said. "That's why he can handle right-handers the way he did. I thought his command was outstanding. He moved the ball around the zone and changed speeds. He didn't leave many balls up or out over the plate."
Royals manager Ned Yost agreed. "I think he's better now [than before the surgery]," he said. "I think that elbow bothered him that last year . But now, his command is superb."
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, pitching at Kauffman Stadium for the first time since Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, left after six innings and 101 pitches without a victory in four starts. He gave up seven hits and one run while walking one and striking out four.
"I had a lot of traffic I had to work through," Bumgarner said. "It was just one of those days where I had to grind it out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The perfect dive: Moustakas hit a hard one-hopper that handcuffed first baseman Brandon Belt in the fifth with Paulo Orlando on third. Bumgarner was a tad late covering the bag, and Moustakas and Bumgarner got in a foot race. Moustakas dived head first toward the bag, avoiding the tag by Bumgarner as Orlando scored. Orlando was instrumental in the run as well. He singled, swiped second on a delayed steal (his specialty), then alertly took third on a groundout to third baseman Eduardo Nunez.
"I had to dive to avoid the tag," Moustakas said. "If I hadn't, I definitely would have been out. It was a great feeling to be safe, and get that run across. Any time you can score against him, it's pretty good."
Said Bumgarner: "I was a little late getting to first there. I got my feet tangled up a little bit. It's easy to take Belt for granted because he's such a good defensive first baseman. I should have left a little sooner and saved that run, but just didn't."
Orlando said he tried the delayed steal primarily because Bumgarner keeps the ball down, sometimes in the dirt.
"Good pitches to run on," Orlando said.
A mild threat: Vargas wasn't in trouble much but he was tested in the fifth inning. With one out, catcher Nick Hundley lined a double off the third-base bag that caromed down the left-field line for a double. But Vargas came back and got Joe Panik on a weak grounder to second, and then struck out Gorkys Hernandez on three pitches, the final one a changeup that froze Hernandez.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When the Royals pushed across a run in the fifth inning it marked the first time they had scored against Bumgarner since Game 1 of the 2014 World Series, a span of 18 straight innings.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Giants challenged a safe call at second in the fifth inning on Orlando's delayed steal. After a 2:18 delay, the ruling from New York was that the play would stand.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: Right-hander Johnny Cueto (3-0, 3.79 ERA) will be looking to win his eighth consecutive start dating back to last season when he takes on the Rockies on Friday at 5:40 p.m. PT in Colorado. The last Giants pitcher to win eight consecutive outings was Matt Cain in 2012.
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (2-0, 1.80 ERA) takes the hill for the Royals as they open a four-game set against the Rangers in Texas at 7:05 p.m. CT Thursday. Duffy was terrific his last time out Friday against the Angels, holding them to one run and three hits over seven innings.