SAN FRANCISCO -- Two teams seeking to recapture the magic that brought them together in the 2014 World Series complete their interleague series with a two-game set that begins Tuesday night.
The opener pits Kansas City Royals left-hander Jason Vargas, who started Game 4 of the championship matchup with San Francisco three seasons ago, against second-year Giants left-hander Ty Blach.
Neither the Royals (28-34) nor Giants (26-39) would make the playoffs if they started today. Clearly, Kansas City is in better shape to make a run at it.
The Royals have won two in a row and four of six, including victories in two of three games at San Diego over the weekend to open a nine-game Western swing.
The teams split two games in Kansas City in April, with Vargas pitching the Royals' win, outdueling Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in the process.
Vargas shut out the Giants on four hits in seven innings in the 2-0 decision, striking out nine, including Buster Posey twice.
He has pitched in San Francisco only once in his career, and it did not go well.Vargas was pulled after four innings in Game 4 of the 2014 World Series, having allowed three runs and six hits.The Giants went on to win the game 11-4 and the Series in seven games.
Vargas is 1-1 in four regular-season matchups with the Giants, all at home, posting a 2.33 ERA. He has won his last three starts overall, allowing four runs in 19 2/3 innings to lower his ERA to 2.18, second best in the American League. His eight wins are tied for second in the AL.
"I think he's even better now," Royals manager Ned Yost said when asked about the Tommy John procedure that sidelined Vargas most of last season. "I think his command is better. I think the action is as sharp as can be. I think he's pitching fantastic."
Vargas is 9-7 in 22 career interleague starts.
One of the pitchers tied with Vargas in wins, Minnesota's Ervin Santana, dominated the Giants in an interleague matchup Friday, throwing a four-hitter in a 4-0 win.
That began a two-game stretch in which the Giants were held to one run and 10 hits in two losses to the Twins. However, the San Francisco bats awakened Sunday with a season-best 17 hits in a 13-8 victory that snapped a five-game home losing streak.
The Giants accomplished the win despite not starting three regulars, all left-handed hitters, against Twins left-hander Nik Turley.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy indicated after the game that at least one of his right-handed-hitting part-timers, probably utilityman Kelby Tomlinson, would get another start Tuesday against the left-handed Vargas.
"These guys will continue to get their opportunities," Bochy said of Tomlinson, Aaron Hill and Gorkys Hernandez, who combined for four hits, three runs and two RBIs on Sunday. "But we've got to get our core players back to the numbers we're used to seeing from them. Those are the guys you lean on."
Like Vargas, Blach contributed to a win when the Giants visited Kansas City in April. He came out of the bullpen to get two key outs late in a 2-1 victory that allowed San Francisco to capture the opener of the two-game set. That was his lone career outing against the Royals.
Since replacing the injured Bumgarner in the rotation, Blach has done most of his best pitching at home, where he has allowed 19 hits and seven runs in 33 2/3 innings, posting a 1.87 ERA.