Moose helps Royals cut Rockies loose in finale
Third baseman's bases-clearing double backs Vargas' solid outing
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Moustakas shipped off to Omaha? Naw, that didn't happen, did it?
Good thing because on Wednesday, Moustakas ripped a three-run double that gave Kansas City and left-hander Jason Vargas a 3-2 victory over the suddenly punchless Colorado Rockies. The Royals swept the two-game series, holding the Major Leagues' top-scoring team to a total of three runs.
Moustakas also belted a second double, went 2-for-3, and made a heady defensive play in the aftermath of Tuesday's drama that centered on unfulfilled speculation that he might be demoted to Triple-A Omaha.
On Tuesday, Moustakas stood before the media and calmly stated confidence in his abilities. On Wednesday, he faced a bigger battery of cameras, microphones and notebooks, and pointedly avoided talking about his game-winning hit, instead repeatedly praising Vargas.
"I'm just crediting my team today," Moustakas said.
After the mega-media cluster dissipated, Moustakas was asked if he didn't gain some personal satisfaction from his big day.
"Zero," Moustakas insisted. "I come out every day the same way, trying to help the team win the ballgame and just because of what happened yesterday happened, it didn't mean I came out to play harder today. I came out the exact same as I always do. I got a couple of hits today and that's all that matters.
"We're taking away from the fact that Vargy pitched a fantastic game and pitched his tail off for us, and that's what matters, that's what's important. I had a couple big hits for us, but we don't get those big hits if Vargy doesn't keep us in the ballgame like he did."
Vargas certainly was impressive as he went 6 2/3 innings, holding the Rockies to just two runs and five hits. Both runs came on Drew Stubbs' home run in the seventh on the 103rd and last pitch Vargas threw.
If Moustakas was talking up Vargas, Vargas was talking up Moustakas.
"Moose coming up clutch there is huge," Vargas said. "We get the chance to put them in a hole early and we did, and we were able to hold them."
The Moustakas drama came in the second inning. Salvador Perez, Johnny Giavotella and Lorenzo Cain each singled, loading the bases with one out.
Up came Moustakas, who pulled a line drive along the right-field line. It was a double that sent all three runners churning across the plate.
With that, the school kids let out a collective shrill scream that morphed into a "Mooooooooose!" call.
"We talked yesterday that that's what he has the ability to do: Win a ballgame for us with one swing," manager Ned Yost said.
Moustakas had another nice swing in the fourth inning, an opposite-field shot down the left-field line for another double.
"I think he's going to get back to going the opposite way like he did this spring and he's going to be OK," Cain said.
In his third at-bat, Moustakas hit a long drive that elicited more shrieks from the school kids, but it was caught in deep right field. At day's end, Moustakas' average was up to .161, still a long way to go.
Yost again expressed confidence in Moustakas, a day after he and general manager Dayton Moore gave their reasons for keeping him in KC.
"I've got faith in him to begin with," Yost said. "He's struggling a little bit. He's still leading our team in homers, he can do things defensively to help win ballgames. I believe in him, Dayton believes in him, the players in that locker room believe in him."
There are also a lot of believers in Vargas, who upped his record to 4-1. He didn't give up a hit until there were two out in the fourth and Carlos Gonzalez rolled a single into center field.
The Rockies got two more singles in the sixth inning, putting runners at the corners with one out. But Troy Tulowitzki and his .391 average were out of the game, ejected by home-plate umpire Dan Bellino for protesting his called strikeout in the fourth. That brought up sub DJ LeMahieu, who struck out.
Catcher Perez ended the inning, whipping a throw to Moustakas and picking off Charlie Culberson at third, but he gave credit to Moose calling the play.
"Me and Salvy have been on the same page for a long time," Moustakas said. "We've been playing the same way together for a while now so I just looked to him and he looked to me so we knew it was on, so that's just kind of how it happened."
Yost explained that Moustakas was playing far off the bag with the left-handed Gonzalez at the plate.
"Out of nowhere, I don't know how Moose got over there without anybody seeing him to allow Salvy to get the pick on him," Yost said. "It's a tremendous play, a heads-up play by Moose and a great throw by Salvy."
It was Perez's first pickoff of the year and the 10th of his career.
The Rockies caught a break in the seventh. A pop fly into short right center by Nolan Arenado drew three fielders to the area, but the ball fell off the glove of second baseman Pedro Ciriaco, just into the game as a defensive replacement for Giavotella. Nori Aoki, the right fielder, and Cain, the center fielder, could only watch as Arenado steamed to a double.
"We put Ciriaco in the game because he's got more range than Johnny," Yost said, "but that range kind of hurt us a little bit on that play because he ventured so far out. I don't know if Nori thought he was going take it [but] that's a ball an outfielder should catch."
After an out, Stubbs belted his home run into the left-field bullpen and Vargas was through. Louis Coleman got the third out. Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect eighth and closer Greg Holland survived a single and a walk in the ninth to register his 10th save.
But the big story was Moustakas and maybe he had an inclination something was coming,
"Moose even said it before the game: He was feeling good today and like he was going to do something big today," Cain said.
And he did.