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TOR@CLE: Masterson fans nine, allows just two runs

Left-hander Jason Vargas, in his four starts for the Royals, has been the model of efficiency. He's thrown at least seven innings in each outing and his 1.24 ERA was third in the American League.

During his 29 innings, Vargas has faced as many as five batters in only seven of those innings.

"He throws strikes," manager Ned Yost said.

Indeed, Vargas has issued just six walks. He's also given up a bunch of hits (21), but has shown a great knack for stranding baserunners. All four runs scored against him have been the result of three homers.

Vargas has pitched just twice at Progressive Field and not since 2011, but did well in both starts with a 1-0 mark and a 1.94 ERA.

His mound opponent on Wednesday night, Indians right-hander Justin Masterson, has been pretty efficient himself lately with 16 strikeouts in his last 11 innings.

Masterson has no record in his four starts. He left his last outing against Toronto with a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh but didn't have a decision as the Tribe lost, 3-2.

The two teams are jammed into a tightly knotted AL Central and both have faced all four of their division foes.

"Our division right now, you look at the standings and everybody is all bunched up, which is probably pretty fortunate for us because we didn't get off to the greatest start," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I would say it looks to me like everybody really got better, which I'm not pleased about. I think it makes for good baseball for the fans."

Royals: Esky proving very pesky
Always potent as a defensive weapon, shortstop Alcides Escobar is also reigniting his offensive game.

Since going 0-for-16 to start the season, Escobar has hit at a .426 clip at 20-for-47 with nine runs, eight RBIs, six doubles and a home run.

His goal is getting back to his 2012 success when he batted .293 and was over .300 going into the season's last month. Last year he slipped to .234 with 35 fewer hits.

Indians: The Bourn return
Michael Bourn has played just six games after missing about a month with a left hamstring injury and Francona was asked if he expected a brief feeling-out period for his center fielder.

"Yeah, sure," Francona said. "You can never quite tell. It happens. How many times have you seen it where a guy comes up and he's 4-for-4 right off the bat? ... He'll play his way into feeling good. He's moving around in the outfield a lot. ... The best way for us to get Bourny back to being Bourny is to play him."

Bourn was just 3-for-21 until Tuesday night when he got two hits in an 8-2 loss.

Francona thought the Indians' decision bring back Bourn when they did was the right one.

"We talked to him a lot. I actually talked to him a lot," Francona said. "He was really good about it. Some guys, you're not sure. He was really good and really honest about how he felt, because we would've probably let him play that Sunday [April 13 in Chicago] and he wanted to play another [rehab] game. He's really good about it."

Worth noting
• Alex Gordon has hit Masterson well, .353 going 12-for-34 with five extra-base hits and five RBIs. Jarrod Dyson has just nine at-bats against him, but five hits.

• Mike Moustakas' home run Tuesday night ended the Indians pitching staff's streak of consecutive innings without a blast at Progressive Field at 57.

• The Royals are 10-0 when scoring at least four runs, 0-9 when they do not.

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