Whatever Has Gotten Into Royals’ Vargas in 2017, Keep Riding It Vs. Jays

Matthew Jordan

Friday, June 23, 2017 6:24 PM UTC

Friday, Jun. 23, 2017 6:24 PM UTC

It’s Game 2 of a three-game set from Kansas City on Saturday afternoon (2:15 ET) as the Royals start their unlikely Cy Young candidate against the Toronto Blue Jays. Any reason not to back the home side?

MLB Season Record: 23-17

Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals (-115, 9)

It’s Toronto’s only visit of the season to Kansas City, and the teams play Game 2 of a three-game set from Kauffman Stadium on Saturday with a first pitch around 2:15 p.m. ET.

The Jays and Royals are very much alike this season as both got off to horrid starts but have turned things around (to a point) and are still in the divisional and wild-card races. However, if they each could also be major sellers ahead of the July 31 trade deadline if things go downhill over the next month.

Toronto got off to a 9-19 start and Kansas City was 10-20. Their GMs are in a pickle because neither is probably good enough to win its division, so do they go all-out simply to earn a wild-card spot? There are veterans on both teams set to become free agents who would bring trade value – including both starting pitchers Saturday.

Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and third baseman Mike Moustakas would all bring back solid returns (maybe not Escobar so much). The Red Sox and Yankees both need a third baseman and reportedly have eyes on Moustakas. The small-market Royals aren’t going to be able to sign all those guys next winter and maybe none of them.

The Blue Jays have Jose Bautista, starting pitcher Francisco Liriano and a few relievers due for free agency. Speaking of Bautista, the team has moved him to leadoff. This is a new trend in putting power hitters at the top of the lineup instead of speedy on-base guys. The Cubs are doing the same thing with Anthony Rizzo. It was worth a shot for the Jays as usual leadoff hitter Kevin Pillar is in a horrible slump this month with his batting average below the Mendoza Line and his on-base percentage barely above it. Bautista hit nine homers in 40 games in the leadoff role last season.


Saturday’s Probable Pitchers

Toronto goes with Marco Estrada (4-5, 4.98). On May 27 after beating Texas, Estrada was 4-2 with a 3.15 ERA. He has been bombed since. This month, he is 0-3 with a whopping 12.67 ERA in four starts. Batters are hitting .438 against him with 35 hits and five homers in 16.1 innings.  He has a .517 BABIP this month, highest in the majors by far.

Estrada says he’s healthy and there’s some speculation he could be tipping his pitches. That could be something as subtle as where a pitcher moves his glove after delivering a pitch. He hasn’t faced the Royals since 2015. Hosmer is 4-for-5 career against him. Moustakas is 0-for-7 with three strikeouts.

Royals lefty Jason Vargas (10-3, 2.27) is indeed a Cy Young candidate and could bring back a nice haul of prospects at the deadline if the Royals go that direction. Vargas leads the AL in wins and is second in ERA and eighth in WHIP (1.13). Vargas, a fly-ball pitcher, is doing a great job of leaving runners on base with a percentage of 84.2 that would easily be a career high.

Vargas hasn’t faced Toronto since 2014. Bautista is 4-for-15 against him with three homers. But he’s about the only one to have much success. Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Smoak have combined for two hits in 33 at-bats off Vargas.


Reasoning For Pick

Vargas benefits pitching in cavernous Kauffman Stadium, where fly balls can go to die. He’s 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA at home with only two dingers allowed in 44.2 innings. Vargas is 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in four day starts in 2017. Estrada, meanwhile, has a 4.98 ERA in eight road starts. Frankly, Vargas isn’t this good and Estrada not this bad as he has been of late, but ride the hot trends. Kansas City is the MLB pick.

Free MLB Pick: Royals -115Best Line Offered: SportsBetting

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