Jason Vargas had his best outing in a month and it came when the Kansas City Royals needed it the most.
Vargas snapped a personal four-game losing streak with his career high 15th victory, Brandon Moss homered and drove in four runs and the Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 11-3 on Sunday.
The Royals earned a split of the four-game series after losing the first two games. Kansas City is back at .500 (71-71) and moved 2 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild-card berth.
“We’ve got a lot riding on all of them,” Vargas said. “We can’t afford to lose too many.”
Vargas (15-10) gave up a run and four hits over five innings. He was 2-7 with an 8.13 ERA in his previous 11 starts. Vargas’ previous season-high was 14 victories in 2012 with the Seattle Mariners.
“Personal goals or personal achievements don’t really mean a whole lot,” Vargas said. “If I had got pulled in that fourth inning, we’d still would have got a ‘W’ and it would have been just as a big game for us. At this point, personal goals don’t matter.”
Moss had an RBI double in a six-run second inning and a three-run homer in the seventh.
Eric Hosmer doubled twice among his four hits for his fourth straight multi-hit game. He has eight straight hits and a walk in past nine plate-appearances to raise his average to .328.
“It’s a nice streak,” Hosmer said. “We’re getting some wins. We did a good job of evening out this series. We realize there’s not a lot of time left, so there’s definitely a sense of urgency in here.”
Hosmer went 11 for 14 with two walks in the four-game series.
“We didn’t get Hosmer out, it felt like, the whole series,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Byron Buxton tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the second for the only run against Vargas, who worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth when Brian Dozier grounded into an inning-ending double play.
“I was trying to get him to ground into a double play,” Vargas said. “I don’t know what else to say.”
The Royals sent 11 men to the plate in a six-run second inning off Bartolo Colon (6-12). Hosmer led off with a single, his first of two hits in the inning. He scored a run and drove in a run in the second.
Alcides Escobar contributed a two-run single, while Moss, Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield had run-producing doubles.
Colon retired only five of the 11 batters he faced for his shortest outing of the year.
“There’s good days and then there’s bad days,” Colon said through an interpreter. “Today I felt amazing going out there, better than previous starts, but it was not my day today.”
Kenny Vargas hit a two-run homer in the Twins’ ninth.
Escobar was hitting .179 on June 17, but is 81 for 278 (.299) in his past 75 games, to raise his average to .248. He went 6 for 13 in the series against the Twins.
Twins: LHP Adalberto Mejía (arm strain) will likely be activated and inserted into the rotation at the end of the week after tossing five one-hit scoreless innings Saturday for Double-A Chattanooga in a rehab start.
Royals: RHP Joakim Soria (left oblique strain) returned to Arizona to be with his daughter who had appendicitis surgery. Also, his wife’s due date is Thursday for the couple’s third child. The club had planned to activate Soria on Monday, but that will be delayed several days.
Twins: After a day off, RHP Kyle Gibson (9-10, 5.19 ERA) will start Tuesday against the Padres.
Royals: RHP Jason Hammel (8-10, 4.73) will start the series opener against the White Sox. Chicago will go with RHP Reynaldo Lopez (0-3, 4.84).