Sunday marks a pair of homecomings for Royals starter Jason Vargas.
Vargas makes his return to California, his birth state, to pitch in the stadium of his former team, the Angels.
He will square off with Los Angeles starter Garrett Richards in the rubber game of the three-game series, after Kansas City claimed the second game, 7-4, in 13 innings Saturday.
Vargas (4-2, 3.76 ERA) is no stranger to the Angels or Angel Stadium. He pitched with the team last year, and faced them 13 times (12 starts) in his four years with the Mariners.
From 2009-12, Vargas logged 10 quality starts and posted a 2.65 ERA against the Angels, including a 2.27 ERA in Anaheim.
Los Angeles signed him in 2013, and he finished the season with a 4.02 ERA in 24 starts.
"The one thing that changes, from when I pitched against them for the Mariners, is that I know everybody," Vargas said Saturday. "They're going good right now."
The Angels hold the American League's third-best winning percentage (.563). Part of their resurgence revolves around a breakout season from Richards.
Richards entered the Majors as a tantalizing prospect, featuring a mid-90s fastball and solid breaking stuff. But his potential did not materialize during his first three years in an Angels uniform.
He split time between the rotation and the bullpen, appearing in 84 games and starting 29. Richards posted a 4.49 ERA and a 6.1 strikeout per nine ratio (K/9) in 230 innings.
But his first nine starts this season have been a revelation. His ERA sits at 2.90, and he owns a nifty 8.2 K/9.
Richards' lone hiccup this season came last Monday, when the Astros tagged him for five runs in seven innings. He allowed a season-high 10 hits and struck out just one batter, a season low. Richards took his first loss as Los Angeles fell, 5-2.
"He'd given up five runs [in three innings] and decided, 'We're not losing 9-8,'" said manager Mike Scioscia. "He ended up holding them after the first couple innings. He didn't melt. He kept pitching. That's an important thing for any young pitcher to learn."
Richards has started just one game in his career vs. Kansas City. He allowed four runs in five innings during a July 2012 loss.
Royals: Perez returns, catches
The Royals got All-Star and Gold Glove catcher Salvador Perez (sore hand) back in the lineup on Saturday night for the first time since he left Monday's game in the eighth inning. The offense-strapped Royals can use his bat. Perez, who went 2-for-6 on Saturday, is hitting .292 (19-for-65) in May, with three doubles and two homers.
In May, the Royals have a .248/.303/.339 slash line, with nine home runs and 84 runs in 22 games. One of their home run leaders, Mike Moustakas (four), was optioned to Triple-A Omaha on Thursday with a .152 average.
Snapping the Royals out of their offensive doldrums is a matter of two or three hitters coming through, manager Ned Yost said, and it doesn't have to be the same players every night.
"We've gone through this before," Yost said. "They'll break out of it. It gets more magnified when you're going through it, but every team does. One swing can change it."
Angels: Trout collecting extra-base hits
A poor start to the month of May for Mike Trout sparked some suggestions that the Angels' prodigy may actually be human.
Trout entered Saturday's game hitting .203/.306/.420 in May. Not bad, but a far cry from the .324/.416/.560 slash line he produced in his first two full seasons as a Major Leaguer.
However, on Saturday, Trout launched his fifth home run of the month -- and his second in as many games -- and continued a season-long trend of collecting extra-base hits.
Of his 50 hits this season, 24 have been for extra bases -- 10 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs.
• The Royals are 17-4 this season when Nori Aoki scores a run. They're 5-0 when he scores multiple runs. The leadoff hitter went 2-for-7 with two runs scored in Saturday's win.
• For only the fourth time in 30 starts this season, Angels outfielder Colin Cowgill failed to hit safely in the Angels' 7-4 loss to the Royals.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.