MINNEAPOLIS — The Kansas City Royals have played well away from home. They’re consistently capable of winning with only a couple of runs.
If they can keep this up for the summer, they’ll probably be right there in the pennant race at the end.
Jason Vargas threw seven scoreless innings, Raul Ibanez homered in his second game for Kansas City and the Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0 Wednesday.
“We’ve been running the ball out there and doing a good job of keeping our team in the ballgame, and when we’re not the boys are stepping up and keeping us in the ballgame,” Vargas said. “So we’ve got a good combo going on right now.”
Vargas (8-3) allowed four singles and two walks while striking out five, allowing only two runners from a diluted Twins lineup to reach second base. Only five of their 21 outs against him were outfield flies.
“He’s got all the pitches,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Mike Moustakas and Jarrod Dyson hit RBI singles in the second inning against Kevin Correia (4-10), and that was all Vargas needed. With Joe Mauer missing, placed on the disabled list before the game because of a strained muscle on his right side, the Twins didn’t cause Vargas any trouble. They were shut out for the sixth time this season and lost for the seventh time in their last nine games.
“Obviously you have to score to win,” said Correia, the league leader in losses. “It’s tough. It’s a good pitching staff they have. It’s going to happen.”
With rookie Yordano Ventura and now Danny Duffy joining the veteran trio of Vargas, James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie, who are all in the top 10 in the league in innings pitched, the Royals have a deep rotation. They’ve pitched well enough to make up for substandard seasons by several key hitters.
Vargas improved to 4-1 in his last eight starts, seven of which have counted as quality: six innings or more and three runs or less. Vargas also became the first Royals left-hander to win eight games or more before the All-Star break since Chris George in 2003.
“I thought he was splendid,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was pretty much in complete control.”
The 42-year-old Ibanez signed Monday with the Royals, the team that first gave him a regular spot in the lineup all the way back in 2001. He had two hits and two runs in this game, including the solo shot to right field in the eighth. Ibanez was released by the Los Angeles Angels last month.
Eric Hosmer, who walked three times, added an RBI single in the ninth inning for insurance.
The Royals won their fifth straight road series. After losing eight of 12 following a 10-game winning streak, Vargas put them back on track.
“Just typical Vargas, just going out, working, throwing strikes, letting his defense work,” Hosmer said. “He really knows his game plan when he’s out there.”
Correia lowered his ERA to 4.95, the only time he’s had that mark under 5.00 since his first start of the year, after surrendering six hits and two walks in six innings while striking out three. The right-hander completed exactly six innings for the fifth consecutive turn, and he has allowed two runs or fewer in four of those starts.
But the second inning was the one that hurt, when five batters reached. He struck out Billy Butler to finish the frame with the bases loaded.