So much is made out of exit velocity and launch angle in this new generation of baseball.
Neither played a role in the defining moment of Friday night’s divisional battle.
Lorenzo Cain dribbled the go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning to plate Alcides Escobar and give the Royals a 4-0 win at Kauffman Stadium. The infield base knock did not register an exit velocity, but did pave way to the Indians' fourth loss against the last-place team in the AL Central.
Jason Vargas kept the visiting offense in check and earned his sixth career shutout, his first since August 13, 2014.
Tomlin rolls along
The aggressive nature of the Royals lineup played in favor of Tomlin once more as he surrendered three runs on seven hits in 7.1 innings of work, just five days after tossing a complete game against the same team.
"No matter how many times you've seen them, I've got to try to keep guys off the barrel as much as I can," said Tomlin to reporters. "It's just about mixing and matching. Trying to do the best to keep them guessing."
Escobar snapped Tomlin’s middle-inning streak of retiring 17 consecutive batters with a single before Cain beat out an RBI single down the third base line. The umpire originally called the runner out while the replay review overturned the call as Kansas City drew first blood in the pitcher’s duel.
"I knew it was a close play," Tomlin said. "(He) clearly beat it. It was just a tough play. The ball was put in the right spot. If I get to it a little quicker, he's out."
Whit Merrifield doubled in Jorge Bonifacio and Mike Moustakas homered to add a pair of insurance runs and give Tomlin a final line of 7.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R/ER, 0 BB, 5 K (93 pitches, 66 strikes, 71%, five groundouts, four flyouts).
"He and Vargas looked like mirror images of each other just left and right-handed," said Francona. "Pitched the same, commanded the same, kind of take the sting out of your bat."
Zach McAllister gave up an RBI double to Eric Hosmer as the only other hurler to log an appearance.
Double plays lift Vargas to efficient performance
Vargas worked the lower portion of the strike zone to induce four double plays and prevent 11 baserunners from crossing the plate.
"That's part of why he's good," Francona said of the numerous double plays. "He has the ability. You're always reaching. You want more. A guy like that, talk about keeping the line moving, the right-handers (are) going to have to hit the ball the other way at times."
The southpaw faced his fair share of traffic on the base paths with his first one-two-three frame not coming until the seventh, but breezed past the final 10 Cleveland hitters to earn his seventh win of the campaign.
"We could get on, we got our hits to get on," said Francona. "We were getting big. We got those rollover ground-ball outs. We had one lineout to third, but [Vargas] really pitched well."
Michael Brantley notched three singles as the only road batter with multiple hits.
Central Division update
Despite playing without Ian Kinsler, Detroit (26-28) hammered the White Sox (24-29), 15-5.
The series continues on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET from Kauffman Stadium.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (5-2, 2.89) is a perfect 3-0 in the month of May, most recently tossing seven innings of two-run ball vs. Oakland on Monday. The 30-year-old will be making his 11th appearance of the campaign, the first of which comes against the Royals.
RHP Jason Hammel (1-6, 6.18) has allowed three or more runs in each of his last four outings as he continues to search for success in the twilight of his big league career. The Indians fell victim to one of the veteran’s two quality starts this season.