TORONTO — Jason Vargas and four relievers combined on a two-hitter, Melky Cabrera had three hits and the game’s only RBI, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 1-0 on Thursday night.
Vargas (17-10) struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings to win his third straight start. None of the three batters he walked advanced beyond first base.
The Blue Jays did not have a runner reach scoring position. Kendrys Morales hit a leadoff single in the second and was promptly erased on a double play, with Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar using his glove to flip the ball to second baseman Whit Merrifield. Darwin Barney had the only other hit off Vargas, a leadoff single in the fifth.
The Royals, who have 10 games remaining, began the day 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild card spot. Los Angeles and Texas are both ahead of Kansas City.
Kansas City’s run came in the third against Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ (9-11). Alex Gordon walked with one out and advanced to second on a two-out single by Lorenzo Cain before Cabrera hit an RBI single to center.
The inning ended with Eric Hosmer at the plate when Cabrera was caught stealing. Cain broke for home as Cabrera got in a rundown, but first baseman Justin Smoak tagged Cabrera before Cain could cross home plate.
Happ allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings to lose for the first time in four September starts.
Vargas left after Morales grounded out to begin the seventh. Peter Moylan got one out and Ryan Buchter came on to retire pinch hitter Rob Refsnyder.
Joakim Soria pitched the eighth. Mike Minor retired Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, and Jose Bautista in the ninth to earn his second career save.
Bautista struck out swinging to end the sixth. It was his 160th strikeout, breaking a tie with Jose Canseco (1988) and Kelly Johnson (2012) for the Blue Jays’ single season record.
Hosmer was called out to end the eighth when he accidentally kicked his own infield chopper into foul territory while running to first.
Royals: RHP Jason Hammel (8-12, 5.05) starts the opener of a three-game road series against the Chicago White Sox. Hammel is 4-6 with a 5.14 ERA on the road this season. RHP Reynaldo Lopez (2-3, 4.84) starts for the White Sox.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (9-8, 4.84) starts the opener of Toronto’s final home series, a three-game set against the New York Yankees. Estrada, who is 5-1 with a 3.75 ERA in his past 10 starts, signed a $13 million deal Wednesday to stay with Toronto in 2018. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73) starts for New York.