Royals finish off trip with win over Angels
(TSX / STATS) -- ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Kansas City Royals' rousing 7-2 West Coast road trip did more than feature the kind of hitting reminiscent of the team's 2014 and 2015 runs to the World Series, including a title in 2015. It should make them relevant in the discussion about a return to the postseason.
The Royals cut the margin to the leaders in the American League Central by three games during the trip, topped by Sunday's 7-3 rout of the Los Angeles Angels in the finale. The Royals had 10 hits on the day, the fourth time in five games with double-digit hits, and scored 52 runs on the nine-game West Coast swing, including 18 home runs.
Jason Vargas won his 10th game of the season, the most in the AL, and the defense maintained its spot atop baseball for fewest errors. Gone is discussion of April, when the team went 7-16 and averaged 2.7 runs a game.
"It's the same team, with the same guys," said third baseman Mike Moustakas, who had a three-run double in the third, one of two big hits -- the other Salvador Perez's three-run home run in the fourth. "We're just playing better in every area and finally getting wins."
It should also turn talk into the division race and away from the team being broken up before the trade deadline. Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Vargas are all free agents and have been the subject of trade talks as other teams look to add pieces to their postseason hopes.
The Royals know the talk won't stop. "People are going to say what they think,"Moustakas said. "The big thing is that we don't care. These things are out of our control. We're just focused on winning as we always have. Everybody in this clubhouse loves being a Kansas City Royal. We love each other, love being here."
"I know what this team is capable of," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We feel good about this team. Even when we were winning a World Series, not a lot of people were talking about what a good team we were. I just don't pay attention to it."
Virtually every Royal has had a bat in this offensive run. Moustakas is hitting .360 in his last 13 games, with nine extra-base hits and 16 RBIs. He has 31 RBIs over the last 29 games. Perez was 3-for-5 Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. In that span, he has an extra-base hit in eight games, including five doubles and three home runs.
Lorenzo Cain had a double and hit .416 on the trip with 13 runs scored, six home runs and 11 RBIs, and Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly in the win was the 500th RBI in his career. He hit .323 on the trip and is hitting .350 since May 1.
The Angels jumped on Vargas (10-3), who came in with a 2.10 ERA, for two runs in the first, but the one-time Angel settled down thereafter. He worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth, allowing just a scoring fly ball. He allowed eight hits and walked two in six innings.
"I thought Jason pitched great," Yost said. "He was just a little off in the first inning but settled down and did what he's done all year. He labored a bit in the sixth but limited the damage.
Angels center fielder Cameron Maybin singled to start the bottom of the first, extending his streak of reaching base to 23 consecutive games, and scored on Kole Calhoun's double off the top of a low fence in right field. Calhoun scored on an Andrelton Simmons single.
The Royals took over in the third against Angels starter JC Ramirez (6-5). Rookie second baseman Ramon Torres doubled and Ramirez walked Cain and Hosmer on full-count pitches to load the bases. Moustakas sent all three home with a booming double to the right-field gap.
Alex Gordon singled and Torres was hit to end Ramirez's day in the fourth. Reliever Kenyan Middleton fared no better, allowing a single to Jorge Bonifacio to load the bases, a scoring fly ball to Hosmer, and Perez's shot over the center field fence to make it 7-2.
The Angels had 12 well-spaced hits and stranded nine. They are now 7-31 when they score three runs or less.
"We have the guys capable of scoring more runs than we have," shortstop Simmons said. "We get chances and we just don't string hits together."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Ramirez pitched deep into a lot of counts early -- all six outs in the first two innings came on strikeouts -- and by the fourth inning he was up to 89. In comparison, Vargas went six innings and threw 94 pitches.
"He had to work for every out, and (the walks) came on deep counts. It really came down to the Royals getting two big two-out hits," Scioscia said.
NOTES: The Angels begin an eight-game road trip Monday, three games at New York and Boston before returning to Southern California for two road interleague games against the Dodgers. ... The Royals return home for a brief six-game stand versus Boston and Toronto. ... Royals manager Ned Yost gave rookie second baseman Whit Merrifield the day off and started rookie Ramon Torres, his fourth appearance since being recalled. He was 2-for-4 and reached base three times....... Angels CF Mike Trout will make the Angels' road trip that starts in New York, near his New Jersey hometown. He hopes to get approval to start swinging a bat this week. He underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb in late May. ... The Angels have a decision to make on the status of RHP Doug Fister. He was signed to a minor league deal with hopes of reviving career that paused when he didn't get an offer when he became a free agent after last season. He has allowed seven runs in 15 2/3 innings in three starts with Triple-A Salt Lake City. He has a June 21 opt-out date on his minor league deal. The Angels could grant his release or negotiate an extension of his minor league deal. Fister has a 77-76 record in eight seasons with four teams.