KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Royals' 3-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday wasn't merely a victory over a team with the best record in baseball.
It was a good sign.
A day after the A's body-slammed the Royals to end Kansas City's eight-game winning streak, the response was precisely what is required from a team with designs on playoff baseball.
The Royals got a masterpiece from Jason Vargas in his third start since his appendectomy, a two-run homer from Omar Infante and solid defense throughout the night.
Two months ago, the Royals ripped off 10 straight wins and climbed into first place, but the glee was doused by four straight losses that started a tailspin.
It's only one game, but in taking care of the team with baseball's best record on Wednesday night, the Royals assured themselves of another day in first place in the American League Central. The Detroit Tigers remained a half-game back when they ended a four-game skid by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4 on Wednesday.
"It's kind of hard to explain, but when you wake up this late in the season in first place you wake up feeling better, wake up with more energy, with more life," Royals manager Ned Yost said before the game.
He sensed the same enthusiasm in the clubhouse.
"They've worked hard to get to this point," Yost said. "You want them to feel this. They deserve to feel this."
Vargas turned in one of his best performances of the season, cooling off a team that pounded the Royals for 11 runs and 20 hits on Tuesday.
Tuesday, the A's mustered three hits. Two came in the first, and Jed Lowrie opened the second with a single. He was erased on a double play, and no more A's would reach. Vargas set down the final 23 in order.
It was the Royals' third complete game this week, and the second shutout following James Shields' 5-0 victory over the Giants on Saturday. It marked the first time the Royals tossed two shutouts in a week since 2006.
Vargas got all the run support he needed in the third. Nori Aoki's one-out single to right, his second hit in as many at-bats, got things started.
Up stepped Infante, who hadn't hit a home run since his career first grand slam on June 27. He turned on Kazmir's offering and deposited it in the left-field bullpen.
Infante was in the middle of the next Royals' score, this time with hustle.
Christian Colon's bunt survived a challenge from A's manager Bob Melvin, and Aoki sacrificed him to second.
Infante hit a slow roller to shortstop Jed Lowrie, and conventional baseball wisdom has Colon remaining at second base.
Instead, Colon darted to third and Infante beat the throw at first. Salvador Perez lofted a fly deep enough to right to score Colon.
The Royals were finished scoring, and the A's never started, thanks to Vargas.
(c)2014 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services