By DAVE SKRETTA
(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — Jason Vargas was completely unaware that Cleveland had piled up 17 runs the previous night.
He was happy about it, too.
Unaware of how hot the free-swinging Indians had been, the Royals left-hander calmly carried a shutout into the eighth inning Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Kansas City offense hit a season-best three home runs in a 9-5 victory to open their two-game series.
“I guess I’m glad I didn’t know they scored 17 runs last night,” said Vargas, who gave up six hits and hit three batters with pitches, but didn’t allow a run until Jason Kipnis drove in a pair with a two-out double in the eighth.
“You just have to get ahead and execute,” he said, “and let the defense do what they do.”
Eric Hosmer hit a two-run shot and also drove in a run during a four-run fourth inning. Alex Gordon went deep in the eighth and Mike Moustakas added a two-run shot later that inning as the Royals (32-32) moved back to .500 by matching their second-best run total of the season.
“It’s a good feeling,” Moustakas said, “but it’s not where we want to be.”
Corey Kluber (6-4), who dominated the Royals earlier this season, allowed six runs — three earned — and six hits over five innings. He struck out five and walked two.
He was nearly bailed out when Tim Collins gave up another run in the eighth inning and Aaron Crow yielded two more in the ninth. But Crow wound up finishing for his first save of the season.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and David Murphy drove in the other runs for Cleveland.
Both starters dominated for the first couple of innings, Vargas using guile to keep Cleveland off balance and Kluber needing just 17 pitches to retire the first six Royals batters.
Everything changed in the bottom of the third.
Moustakas walked to start things off, and Alcides Escobar followed with a single. Jarrod Dyson then hit a grounder that Kipnis fielded and tossed to Cabrera covering second. But in making the grab and transitioning to his throwing hand, Cabrera dropped the ball. He was still granted an out initially, but replay overturned the umpire’s call and he was given an error.
“When you give teams extra chances, extra opportunities, especially against the middle of the order, sometimes you pay a price for it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
“Obviously, nobody is perfect,” Kluber added. “Errors are part of the game.”
That one loaded the bases for Omar Infante, in the throes of a 1-for-21 slump, and he dropped a single into center field for a 1-0 lead. Hosmer followed with his RBI groundout, and Billy Butler added a two-run single moments later to make it 4-0.
“If we don’t win that challenge,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “we lose out on three runs.”
Hosmer homered in the fifth, his third of the season, and Kluber was yanked after the inning. It was a marked contrast to his last outing against Kansas City, when the right-hander tossed his first career complete game in a 5-1 victory on April 24.
Meanwhile, Vargas was mowing down an Indians order that included the scorching Lonnie Chisenhall, who went 5 for 5 with three homers and nine RBIs the previous night in Texas. Vargas even helped himself, snaring a liner in the sixth to start an inning-ending double play.
It wasn’t until Vargas left the game that the Indians started to rally, and the hole they had dug themselves proved to be far too deep.
NOTES: Indians RHP Zach McAllister (strained lower back) allowed two runs in six innings during a rehab start for Triple-A Columbus. He will join the team later this week in Boston, though it’s unclear when he’ll slot back into the rotation. … Indians OF Nick Swisher (left knee) went 0 for 2 while playing five innings for Double-A Akron. He also plans to join the Indians in Boston. … Royals LHP Bruce Chen (back) plans to make a rehab start for Triple-A Omaha on Friday.