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Royals' bats come alive in win

By Andy McCullough

McClatchy-Tribune

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The mist shimmered in the Kauffman Stadium lights, and flags whipped high above the diamond. Playing once more in inhospitable conditions, the Royals offense looked futile and feckless -- until Salvador Perez stepped to the plate in the seventh inning.

Twice in one evening, Perez rescued the Royals and their moribund offense from the prospect of a dismal defeat. Perez blasted a two-run home run in the seventh and a go-ahead, two-run double in the eighth as the Royals bested the Blue Jays, 10-7.

His double allowed manager Ned Yost to enjoy a bit of tactical supremacy. The hit scored pinch runner Jimmy Paredes from first base. Paredes was running for heavy-footed designated hitter Billy Butler.

Thus the Royals, 13-12, stretched their record to 13-0 when they score four runs. The team staged an eighth-inning onslaught, tacking on four more runs after Perez's double.

Jason Vargas picked an opportune evening for his worst performance as a Royal. The Blue Jays tagged him for five runs on 10 hits.

Vargas crumbled beneath the weight of a seventh-inning flurry. He yielded two doubles and a single and allowed two runs to score before manager Ned Yost removed him. But the damage was done, and the offense lacked the capability for a comeback.

Toronto reclamation project Dustin McGowan recorded an out in the fifth inning in only one of his four starts this season. The Royals managed only three hits against him, but Alex Gordon chased him with a double in the seventh. Perez took reliever Steve Delabar deep to cut the lead to one.

A lingering storm hovered over Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday evening. The conditions delayed the game 27 minutes.

"Another great weather day for you," a grinning pitching coach Dave Eiland told Vargas beforehand, a couple hours before the first-pitch temperature registered at 46 degrees.

Vargas appeared unperturbed. His first pitch was an 85-mph fastball over the middle. Jose Reyes managed only an infield pop-up. This is both the wonder and the danger of Vargas, how he unleashes a seemingly middling arsenal without fear.

The team experienced the downside six pitches later. Toronto slugger Jose Bautista obliterated a belt-high, 87 miles-per-hour fastball. The baseball screamed into the home bullpen in left field.

The Blue Jays continued to cover Vargas' pitches in the second. He surrendered singles to two of the first three batters. But with runners at the corners, replay intervened to save the Royals a run. Ned Yost challenged an RBI infield single by former Royal Chris Getz. The umpires reversed the decision and allowed Vargas to escape.

When he returned to the mound, he had a lead. The Royals compiled a two-run inning in the second thanks to a pair of Toronto gaffes. Billy Butler ignited the rally with a leadoff single. Alex Gordon followed with a walk. Butler took third on a deep fly by Perez. When McGowan lost a slider in the dirt, Butler scored.

Following a walk by Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar beat out a double-play ball to keep the frame alive. He stole second base, and induced a late, wayward through by catcher Dioner Navarro. The ball sailed into the outfield, and Gordon traipsed home from third.

The rain intensified as the game reached the middle innings. Twice in the fifth, right fielder Nori Aoki failed to run down well-struck drives. A double by Reyes clanged off his glove. A game-tying triple by Melky Cabrera soared over Aoki's head.

Vargas compounded the damage with a wild pitch, a curveball that bounced past Perez, and granted Toronto the lead.