(AP) — The last time Jason Vargas took the mound, he got the ball rolling toward an AL Division Series sweep of the Los Angeles Angels.

This time, he’ll get a chance to put the finishing touches on a similarly swift disposal of the visiting Baltimore Orioles as the Kansas City Royals try for an eighth straight postseason win Wednesday in Game 4 of the ALCS.

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A victory would send the Royals to their first World Series since their 1985 championship season, while Baltimore will look to stave off elimination with an eye toward becoming just the second of 34 teams to come back from a 3-0 hole.

The Royals’ magical postseason run continued with Tuesday’s 2-1 victory in Game 3, which featured four perfect innings from the Kansas City bullpen to close it out. Manager Ned Yost’s relievers have a 1.59 ERA and .175 opponents’ batting average over their last 16 games.

“We take pride in that,” closer Greg Holland told MLB’s official website. “Our preparation, our work ethic, we feel like if we collectively get the lead or tie a ballgame that we should win every one of those.”

Vargas (0-0, 3.00 ERA) limited the Angels to two runs and three hits in six innings of a 3-2, 11-inning Game 1 win on Oct. 2. The left-hander gets the call rather than James Shields, who would have been pitching on four days’ rest but has struggled this postseason.

“I feel fine. Definitely rested,” said Vargas, who’s 3-10 with a 5.10 ERA in his career with at least six days between starts. “Had some bullpen sessions and everything feels fine. I’ve never had this much rest. So I couldn’t give you a good guideline on what I’ll be looking for. But I’ll be ready to go and be ready to try to execute my game plan and execute pitches.”

The one postseason effort followed a disappointing end to the regular season as Vargas went 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in his final four starts.

The 31-year-old is 2-3 with a 1.94 ERA in eight starts against Baltimore. Nelson Cruz is 10 for 30 with four home runs and two doubles against Vargas, while Delmon Young is 7 for 18.

Miguel Gonzalez has been off even longer, last pitching on Sept. 28 – the final day of the regular season. He had a 4.53 ERA in nine starts with six-plus days’ rest this season, nearly two runs higher than in his 17 starts with five days or fewer in between.

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“It’s been two weeks, but I’ve been preparing myself to stay focused and I’ve had a couple of bullpens and a live BP,” Gonzalez said. “So I’m excited. I’m excited to go out there and give my team a chance to win a ballgame.”

The right-hander does have positive postseason experience to fall back on after pitching seven innings in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS against the New York Yankees. Gonzalez limited the Yankees to a run on five hits with eight strikeouts in a 3-2 loss and didn’t factor into the decision.

His regular season ended on a high note with a 4-2 record and 1.62 ERA in his last six starts. The 30-year-old hasn’t been as successful against the Royals, going 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in three starts. The worst of those was his one career outing in Kansas City, where he surrendered six runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-1 loss on July 25, 2013.

Jarrod Dyson is 5 for 6 against Gonzalez while Salvador Perez is 4 for 9 with a home run. Mike Moustakas is 0 for 7, Eric Hosmer is 1 for 9 and Alex Gordon is 1 for 8 with four strikeouts.

The pressure, though, will certainly be on the Baltimore lineup, which managed just three hits in Game 3. Cruz went 0 for 4 after entering with six straight multihit efforts in the postseason.

The Royals continued to get offense from Lorenzo Cain, who went 2 for 4 and is 8 for 12 in the series. Hosmer went 2 for 3 and is batting .462 in the playoffs.

 


 

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