SEATTLE (AP) — Jason Vargas, once a solid starter in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation, did not give his former team much to hit in helping the Kansas City Royals to a 6-1 victory Friday night.
Vargas (3-1), who pitched for the Mariners for four seasons (2009-12), allowed only three hits in seven innings. He struck out six without a walk.
He is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in four career starts against his former team. His 2.30 ERA at Safeco Field is tied for the seventh-best for a starter in park history.
The Royals had 16 hits – all singles. Salvador Perez, Eric Gordon and Eric Hosmer had three hits each for the Royals while Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain had two each.
Brandon Maurer (1-1) took the loss, allowing 14 hits, six runs – four earned – and did not walk or strike out a batter. The 14 hits Maurer allowed were just one short of the team record set by Greg Hibbard on May 24, 1994.
“This was a weird, weird game,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Maurer threw the ball extremely well, gave up two hard hits. They were persistent, put the bat on the ball and found some holes.
“It was one of those nights. I didn’t look up to see if it was a full moon or not. It was weird.”
Maurer said the reason he didn’t walk or strike out anyone was because “I was trying to throw to contact today. I kept the pitch count down (97). Not too many hard-hit balls but they just happened to find holes.
“It’s part of the game. We’d love it if it was on our side.”
That hasn’t been the case recently for Seattle. The Mariners, who scored 35 runs during a five-game win streak in their previous road trip, have just two runs and 10 hits over their last three games.
“We know from time to time we’re going to be challenged,” McClendon said. “We know that going in. Our guys will continue to work hard. We’ll get better.”
Returning to his once familiar home, it was the first road victory for Vargas, who signed a four-year, free-agent deal with the Royals in November.
“When he’s on his game, like he was tonight, he really works the accelerator really well,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He pushes down with the fastball, backs off with the changeup. Good curveball.
“What pitchers like Vargie do so well is they disrupt the opposition hitters’ timing. He did that extremely well tonight.”
The first hit Vargas allowed came in the third, a one-out single by Mike Zunino. Shortstop Alcides Escobar knocked the hard grounder down but it rolled a few feet away. The other hits were Dustin Ackley’s line single to center in the fifth and Robinson Cano’s ground single to right in the seventh.
“He mixed it up and threw strikes,” Mariners third baseman Will Bloomquist said of Vargas. “I saw a couple changeups and they were kind of Jamie Moyer-like, coming out of the back of his hand and falling off pretty good. He threw the ball well.”
The Royals pieced together rallies off Maurer. Only one run scored on a hit. The rest scored on an error, a sacrifice fly, a double play and two on fielder’s choices.
“We don’t care how we get the runs,” Hosmer said. “Any way we can produce them. That’s what we need to do. As an offense, we just have to bear down and find ways to produce runs.”
Aoki opened the game with a single to right followed by Hosmer’s single to right, with Aoki sprinting to third. Aoki scored on Billy Butler’s bouncer to Bloomquist, who tried to start a double play but threw wildly to second, pulling Cano off the bag.
Initially, the umpires ruled Hosmer safe on an apparent error but McClendon challenged the call. After a review, it was ruled that Cano dragged his left toe across the bag while in possession of the ball. Hosmer was ruled out. Perez bounced into a double play to end the inning.
Hosmer’s sacrifice fly in the third put the Royals up 2-0.
Mariners shortstop Brad Miller’s throwing error in the fourth allowed two more runs.
Perez opened with a single followed by a clean bunt single by Gordon. Johnny Giavotella then bounced a potential double-play ball to short but Miller’s flip to second sailed into right field and Perez scored.
Gordon would later score the second run on Cain’s double-play grounder.
Kansas City made it 5-0 in the sixth when Butler scored on Giavotella’s fielder’s choice.
Cain’s one-out single in the eighth scored Perez from second to make it 6-0, ending Maurer’s evening.
The Mariners scored in the eighth off reliever Aaron Crow. Miller drew a one-out walk. Pinch-hitter James Jones then stroked a two-out double into the right-field corner. Miller had stopped at third then trotted home on right-fielder Aoki’s throwing error.
NOTES: Mariners LHP James Paxton, who started the season at 2-0 before suffering a strained lat muscle, threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session before the game. RHP Taijuan Walker (right shoulder impingement) will have his first bullpen session Sunday. There is no timetable for either pitcher. Also, RHP Stephen Pryor, coming off shoulder surgery, is back with Triple-A Tacoma. . Kyle Seager was a late scratch for the Mariners because of flu-like symptoms. Bloomquist replaced him. . The Royals pre-game move to promote Giavotella was necessary because of Omar Infante’s ailing back. Infante missed Thursday’s game and will be rested for the series. Giavotella was hitting .352 for Triple-A Omaha. To make room, the club sent RHP Michael Mariot to Omaha.