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OAK@KC: Vargas retires last 23 to shut out A's

The Royals will send Jason Vargas to the hill on Monday night against the Twins in search of their eighth straight series win.

On July 21, the White Sox claimed the first of a three-game series with Kansas City, which fell to 48-50 and eight games behind Detroit in the American League Central.

Since that loss, the Royals are 20-5 and sit 13 games above .500 (68-55), while leading the Tigers by 1 1/2 games in the division after a 12-6 victory on Sunday put the Royals in position for another series win at Target Field.

Vargas couldn't have been much better than he was in last Wednesday night's three-hit shutout of the Athletics -- a 3-0 Royals win. The veteran lefty retired the last 23 batters he faced and threw just 97 pitches.

"I guess I didn't realize it at the time, but runners had been on base earlier in the game, so I really didn't pay attention to it," Vargas said.

"I know that I was able to throw strikes with what we were doing and balls when I wanted to. It just happened to be that they took the ones that were strikes and sometimes swung at the ones that were balls. And we were still able to pitch away effectively."

Vargas deflected much of the credit to catcher Salvador Perez.

"The game-plan adjustment that Salvy made without us really having to talk about it, we were just able to execute it," Vargas said.

Minnesota's Trevor May looks to cool off Kansas City and secure a better result than he produced in his first Major League start on Aug. 9.

May received the daunting task of debuting against the Athletics, one of baseball's best offenses. May was ushered out of the game before he could record an out in the third inning. He only allowed three hits in his two innings, but the seven free passes he issued came back to haunt him, as Oakland scored four runs off of May in its 9-4 win.

The rookie made a relief appearance three days later vs. the Astros. He allowed three hits, three runs (two earned) and walked two in 2 1/3 innings.

Monday's start will be May's first at Target Field.

"It's another big situation at home against a team that would be in the playoffs, so it's not going to get any easier. Hopefully, he'll be able to manage his emotions," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's overthrown so far and hasn't located his fastball so far -- all the things he's done well [in the Minors]. So he just has to bring it up to here."

Royals: Aoki getting acclimated to the AL
Nori Aoki continued to contribute from the leadoff spot on Sunday, as he added a two-run single in Kansas City's seven-run second inning.

Aoki's resurgence has mirrored the Royals' ascension in the standings. The right fielder is hitting .329/.396/.451 since July 21, when Kansas City sat two games under .500. He even slugged his first home run of the season during this stretch. It came on Aug. 5 in Arizona.

Aoki came up with the game-winning hit last Thursday against Oakland, a two-run triple in the Royals' 7-3 triumph.

Twins: Santana moves to shortstop
Danny Santana made his second straight start at shortstop on Sunday vs. the Royals.

Prior to the Twins' 4-1 win on Saturday, Santana had started 25 straight games in center field. Sliding Santana back to shortstop -- where he's now started 18 games this season -- allowed Jordan Schafer to fill in at center field.

Eduardo Escobar, previously at shortstop, moved to third base for the Twins' last two games.

Santana's hitting has remained consistent among the constant position changes. He led off Sunday with a triple and came around to score Minnesota's first run. Santana's slash line sits at .316/.353/.468 in 250 at bats this season.

Worth noting
• Josh Willingham hit his first home run with the Royals on Sunday, and it came against his former team. Willingham finished 2-for-4 with a double, a solo shot and one walk. He keyed the Royals' 6-5 win on Friday with a three-run double.

• Despite their fifth-place standing in the AL Central, the Twins are 24-23 against the division -- second to the Tigers (24-21).

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