KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The last time Jason Vargas pitched against the Texas Rangers, it seemed like every runner that reached scoring position somehow managed to cross home plate.
The exact opposite happened Wednesday night.
Vargas pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning, Alex Gordon hit a two-run homer and the Kansas City Royals held on for a 4-1 victory that finished off a three-game sweep.
“I felt I was effective,” Vargas said. “They had some opportunities and we were able to make some plays and get out of them.”
Vargas (11-7) stranded four runners in scoring position before turning over a two-on, two-out mess to Kelvin Herrera, who escaped the jam. Louis Coleman gave up a run in the eighth before Wade Davis finished off the inning, and Greg Holland worked a perfect ninth for his 42nd save.
The victory along with Detroit’s 7-0 loss to Cleveland allowed the Royals to extend their lead to 1 1/2 games over the Tigers in the AL Central. They are off Thursday before a crucial trip that takes them through the wild card-chasing Yankees and into a three-game set in Detroit.
“I guess momentum is nice,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “but I don’t believe in that stuff too much. You know we have to go play good baseball. We have to do what we do.”
Nick Tepesch (4-9) allowed all four runs over 6 2/3 innings for Texas.
The Royals grabbed the lead off him in the fourth when Omar Infante led off with a single and Gordon homered to deep center. In the seventh, Salvador Perez and Billy Butler doubled to provide a bit of cushion, and pinch runner Terrance Gore scored on a stolen base and a throwing error.
That was more than enough to doom Texas to its fifth straight loss.
The biggest problem for the injury plagued Rangers lately has been situational hitting, and it manifested itself again in three close losses to Kansas City. They were 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position Wednesday night, making them 3 for 28 over the course of the series.
The sweep of Texas was the first at home for the Royals in seven seasons.