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KC@TOR: Vargas fans seven, holds Blue Jays to one run

One was the sexy pick and the other the predictable, safe pick. Neither has performed to expectations to this point, and both have shared the same glaring weakness: offense.

Now that the Royals -- a popular pick to compete for an American League Central title -- and the Cardinals -- a perennial pick to with the National League Central -- are shifting to the more spacious grounds of Kauffman Stadium, their home-run-hitting deficiencies might be even more exposed when they square off Wednesday night.

Both teams took a break from their offensive woes in Tuesday's 8-7 victory for the Royals, which featured three homers. That said, the overall trends have been undeniable. Both clubs rank near the bottom in baseball in runs scored (227 for Kansas City, 226 for the Cardinals) and have suffered from a lack of power.

The Royals have the fewest home runs, 26, in the Majors, while the Cardinals, with 32 homers, are just one rung ahead of them. Kansas City responded to its offensive woes by changing hitting coaches, and Royals manager Ned Yost said Dale Sveum is making progress on raising that number, even after six days on the job.

Immediately upon taking the job last Thursday, Sveum began emphasizing the need to pick on pitches high in the zone, and in the five games since, the Royals have socked five home runs -- the most recent Alex Gordon's three-run shot in the fifth inning Tuesday. Sveum also boasts 12 years of experience as a big leaguer, something his predecessor, Pedro Grifol, did not.

"Of course there's a period where you've got to get to know a new coach, but Dale's got that personality where you get to know him real quick," Yost said. "He communicates well, and what I mean by that is, he's always honest, he's always straightforward and when he has something to say, there's no baloney in it."

Kolten Wong boosted the Cardinals' home run total Tuesday with a grand slam in the second inning, and Peter Bourjos hit his first of the year with a solo shot in the sixth. It was a welcome departure from the previous four games, in which the Cards scored just six runs and were shut out in back-to-back games Sunday and Monday.

"This isn't how we're going to win games," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Guys are throwing the ball well against us, but guys we know we can hit, we're hitting balls hard, but when we do, we're not having a whole lot go for us. We're also having some at-bats where we're not putting the ball in play. We've got to find something. This isn't working."

Royals lefty Jason Vargas will look to keep St. Louis's hitters frustrated. He's been strong over his last two starts, allowing just two earned runs on 10 hits in 12 1/3 innings, though he danced out of danger Friday against the Blue Jays by stranding nine on base.

Cardinals: Waino past rough outing
When Adam Wainwright takes the mound opposite Vargas on Wednesday, he'll attempt to bounce back from a rare bad outing. Wainwright allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings Friday against the Giants.

At a position that demands such attention to detail, even starters as good as Wainwright are off some nights.

"There's days where you feel something a tick off and you know what it is and you can make an adjustment very fast, and nobody ever knows you were working on something," Wainwright said after Friday's start. "I felt there was a couple of things going on out there mechanically, and no matter what I tried to do, my normal checkpoint to correct things just weren't working. Unfortunately you have a couple nights a year like that."

Royals: No advantage at home
Kansas City has found St. Louis a rather hospitable place over the years, as the Royals are 19-16 in the Gateway City.

But what the heck has happened to them when the I-70 Series shifts to Cowtown?

The Cardinals have dominated at Kauffman Stadium, where they hold a 29-15 advantage entering the two-game set. Just call the Royals overly-accomodating hosts.

Worth noting
• Vargas has held lefty batters to a .215 average this year, well below his career split of .254.

• Wainwright (8-3) will be looking to become the NL's first nine-game winner this season. Comments