KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jason Vargas tossed a three-hitter for his sixth career shutout, Omar Infante hit a two-run homer and the Kansas City Royals beat the Oakland Athletics 3-0 on Wednesday night.
Vargas (9-5) retired the final 23 batters he faced in only his third start since an emergency appendectomy. The left-hander also helped Kansas City bounce back from having an eight-game winning streak snapped and maintain a half-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central.
Salvador Perez drove in the Royals’ other run off Scott Kazmir (13-5), who lost to Kansas City for the second time in 10 days. He has won just once in 10 starts at Kauffman Stadium.
Vargas needed 92 pitches over eight innings, a big reason why manager Ned Yost sent him out for the ninth rather than turn it over to All-Star closer Greg Holland. Five pitches later, Vargas had his first shutout since last September, when he beat Oakland 3-0 as a member of the Angels.
He struck out four without issuing a walk.
The Royals, winners of 17 of their last 21, took two of three from the AL West-leading A’s a couple weeks ago, and assured themselves of no worse than a split of this four-game set.
Vargas allowed four runs over 4 1-3 innings against Oakland in his first start off the disabled list, and two runs over five innings against San Francisco his last time out. But on a mild evening at the K, he looked like the dominant left-hander of earlier this season.
Mixing his pitches and catching the corners, Vargas wiggled out of a jam in the first inning and gave up a single leading off the second before muzzling Oakland the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Royals were scratching out the only runs he needed.
After leaving runners on the corners in the first, Kansas City broke through in the third when Nori Aoki cracked a one-out single and Infante sent a 2-0 pitch into the left-field bullpen. It was his sixth homer of the season and his first since June 27.
The Royals left another runner on third in the fourth, but managed to manufacture a run in the fifth. Christian Colon led off with a single, Aoki laid down a sacrifice bunt and Infante managed to beat the throw on an infield single before Perez hit a lazy sacrifice fly to right field.
Kazmir wound up allowing seven hits and a walk over seven innings.
Athletics: SS Jed Lowrie remained in the lineup despite a fractured right index finger. ... 1B Kyle Blanks (calf strain) planned to play at Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday as he rehabs.
Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer will have an X-ray Thursday on the broken bone in his right hand to determine whether he is ready to start rehabbing it. He’s been out since July 31.
Athletics: Jeff Samardzija makes his second career appearance against Kansas City, the first a relief appearance in a 3-2 loss on Jun 25, 2011, when he was still with the Cubs.
Royals: James Shields is coming off his first shutout with the Royals, a 5-0 win over San Francisco. He carried a shutout into the sixth in a win over Oakland on Aug. 3.