With 24 wins in their last 30 games, and a three-game cushion in the American League Central, the Royals seemingly have all they could ask for at the moment. A sweep of the Rangers on Sunday would be the icing on the cake.
Kansas City enters the finale of its nine-game road trip on Sunday with a 6-2 record. The Royals padded their AL Central lead with a 6-3 win Saturday, and a little help from the Tigers, who split a doubleheader.
Jason Vargas takes the mound for the Royals opposite the Rangers' Scott Baker.
Vargas won his 10th game of the season on Monday. He followed up an Aug. 13 shutout by twirling seven innings of one-run ball in Kansas City's 6-4 win over the Twins.
The left-hander opted for the simplistic view when asked about the key to the game: "The infielders' and outfielders' gloves. They were able to catch the ball and make all the plays," Vargas said.
Even so, he had a shutout until the seventh when Oswaldo Arcia led off with a monster homer. Vargas walked just one batter -- the only walk he's given up in 25 1/3 innings this month. That's an average of 0.36 per nine innings, tops in the Majors among pitchers with at least three starts.
Vargas faces Texas for the first time this season, but he became quite familiar with the team as a former Mariner and Angel.
It wasn't until Saturday that Rangers manager Ron Washington pegged Baker for the finale against the Royals on Sunday.
Baker, who makes his first start since July 13, has been used primarily in long relief for Texas this season. In fact, he hasn't seen the mound at all since Aug. 12. Given this long break, Washington said his pitch count would be about 60 or 65.
Royals: Not taking any foe for granted
Of the Royals' 34 remaining games, 18 are against clubs at the .500 mark or below, but manager Ned Yost says his players are not taking any opponent lightly.
"They've been on the flip side where they've been in last place and teams came in and overlooked us and we'd take them two out of three or three out of three. They know, they grew up learning that," Yost said.
That's why the Royals disregard the Rangers' record, worst in the Majors.
"Every game's important. You actually put more focus on these games than you do the 'big games' because these are games that, according to the standings and this and that, you're supposed to come in and win. And that's not always the case," Yost said.
"People say, 'Well, you should sweep these guys.' Well, OK, go back to your office or go back and sit on the couch. You don't understand the difficulty of coming in and playing a Major League game -- it's hard to win a Major League game. You take nobody for granted, you go out and play as hard as you can and play to win."
Rangers: Beltre still producing
It's been a tough season for the Rangers, who currently sit in last place in the American League West by a wide margin, but they can always bank on the consistency of their All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Beltre collected two more hits in Texas' loss Saturday. He now has four straight two-hit games.
His hot streak began on Aug. 15 when Beltre rapped out four hits against the Angels. He now has 13 hits in seven games since that day.
• The Royals tied the Orioles for the best road record in the AL at 39-28.
• Leonys Martin collected a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs Saturday. He's hitting .486 (17-for-35) since Aug. 12.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.