KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Normally, it might be maddening for any team, but particularly the A's, to score 11 runs on 20 hits one night and zero runs on just three hits the next.
But with the kind of high-quality masterpiece Kansas City's Jason Vargas painted against Oakland on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium -- a 97-pitch shutout in which the left-hander retired the final 23 batters he faced -- you just tip your cap, turn the page and try to forget about it as fast you can.
If nothing else, it wasn't a slow execution. Vargas and the Royals dispatched A's 3-0, and they did it in a speedy 2 hours, 6 minutes. It was the shortest game for Oakland since June 6, 2012, when Bartolo Colon pitched eight innings of shutout ball against Texas in a 2-0 A's win.
Without question, the A's offense has been feast or famine for much of the period since the Yoenis Cespedes trade July 31, but manager Bob Melvin said you can't really count this game as one in which the A's hitters scuffled.
"At times, you're going to get well-pitched games against you, and today was one of those," Melvin said. "I don't think our approach was any worse today than it was yesterday. It was just counteracted by a guy who pitched a great game."
Josh Donaldson, who made the best contact against Vargas with a first-inning double to left-center field and a long fly ball out in the fourth, attested that the veteran control specialist was mixing and moving his pitches pretty much wherever he wanted, and in any count.
"He just does a great job of pitching to all quadrants of the zone and using all of his pitches all the time," Donaldson said. "He's one of those guys who's hard to just sell out on a certain pitch when he's on."
The A's are certainly familiar with that. Vargas pitched a similar game against them Sept. 24 while with the Los Angeles Angels, a 3-0 victory in which he tossed a 110-pitch four-hitter and faced just two batters over the minimum.
Vargas was even better this time, despite a 23-pitch first inning. The A's looked as if they might pick up where they left off from the previous night when Donaldson hit a two-out double and Jonny Gomes followed with an infield single. But with runners at first and third, Derek Norris worked to a full count then struck out, and little did Oakland know it wouldn't get a better scoring chance.
Jed Lowrie opened the second inning with a single, but he was erased on a Nate Freiman double play, and the A's wouldn't get another base runner the rest of the night.
Vargas didn't walk a batter and struck out four, and even his mound opponent, Scott Kazmir, was impressed.
"He just kept everyone off-balance," Kazmir said. "I was up here (in the clubhouse) watching TV in between some of those innings, and he was hitting every corner, up and in, low and away. He was mixing it up nice."
Kazmir, to be sure, didn't pitch badly himself. He gave up just seven hits over seven innings but surrendered a two-run homer to Omar Infante in the third. The Royals scratched out a run in the fifth on Salvador Perez's sacrifice fly, and that was more than enough to do in the Kazmir (13-5), who walked just one and struck out three.
"One pitch. Other than that, he really gives up nothing," Melvin said of Kazmir. "A ground ball we don't make a play at first, and it ends up being the third run. (Kazmir) did his job. It's just the one pitch was a two-run homer."
But Kazmir definitely wasn't happy with the execution of that one pitch that cost him the game.
"I was trying to throw a sinker low and away, and it ended up staying belt-high, middle-in," he said. "I just didn't hit my location."
That said, the A's left-hander was happier with this performance than his last two starts in which he gave up a total of nine earned runs, including five in one inning against Minnesota.
"I felt good," he said. "I was able to add and subtract to my fastball, but the most important thing is that I was getting my changeup back. That's a positive development going forward. The last couple of games, it's been inconsistent, and I got hurt on a couple of changeups that I left up."
Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.
A's (Jeff Samardzija 5-8) at Kansas City (James Shields 11-6), 11:10 a.m. MLB Network (joined in progress, approx. noon)