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Jason Vargas rides the slow train to stardom

By in Press Enterprise on July 9, 2017

By Mark Whicker

LOS ANGELES — Jason Vargas leads all American League pitchers in wins, ERA and disguise.

He is a 5-foot-10 left-hander for Kansas City who might have to convince a Miami security guard he belongs in the All-Star Game on Tuesday. His fastball doesn’t go as fast as your vehicle, on the stretch from Barstow to Baker.

But suddenly it seems Vargas was born for these max-effort times, with pitches that turn power hitters into human pretzels. When the rest of the world goes high, Vargas goes low.

“This definitely opens some door for guys who might want to pitch otherwise, when everybody thinks it’s all about velocity and power stuff,” Vargas said Saturday at Dodger Stadium.. “It’s nice to have.”

The Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks reminded the world that pitching is not a one-speed bike, and it also depends on how often you can shave off corners of the plate. Hendricks was unusual because he was a finesse righthander. Vargas is the prototype “crafty left-hander,” except most of those guys are pitching to survive. Vargas is pitching to win.

He is 12-3 with a 2.62 ERA, and his WHIP of 1.174 is ninth in the American League. He also is seventh in home run rate.

Through a turbulent spring, Vargas was Kansas City’s stabilizer. Now the Royals, world champions two years ago when Vargas was recovering from Tommy John surgery, are closing in on Cleveland in the American League Central.

Since they were playing the Dodgers on Saturday, that pursuit was slowed. Cody Bellinger slapped a home run to left to tie it in the eighth, won it in the 10th with a bases-loaded walk. The Dodgers are 31 games over .500 and have won 25 of 29. Manager Dave Roberts talked of their own confidence but also the “fear” he sees by now in opponents. “There’s always […]    

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