Waived three times in the offseason, Virgil Vasquez couldn’t help but have fun in his first major league start in 22 months.
The 27-year-old right-hander went six innings for his first major league win and the Pittsburgh Pirates got home runs from three unlikely power sources in a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Vasquez (1-0), recalled by the Pirates after Thursday’s game to make his first start since Aug. 31, 2007, allowed two runs and four hits while striking out seven.
“It was so much fun,” said Vasquez, who spent last season with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate before being claimed — and later left exposed on waivers — by Boston and San Diego then finally sticking with the Pirates in a three-month span this winter.
“It’s great to get an another opportunity up here after being with three teams in the offseason,” he said. “It was nice to know three different teams liked me and wanted to have me on a roster, and I ended up here, and I’m really happy with this clubhouse and the front office and teammates and coaches.”
Vasquez worked quickly and threw strikes — 66 among 99 pitches. Only once this season in 14 Triple-A starts had he struck out at least seven.
“I don’t want to say he’s a strikeout pitcher,” Pirates manager John Russell said, “but he was getting ahead of hitters, and when you’re ahead of hitters, he has enough he can strike them out.”
Nyjer Morgan, Jason Jaramillo and Jack Wilson homered for Pittsburgh, which has won three straight since snapping a five-game losing streak.
Mark Teahen hit his ninth homer and Miguel Olivo went 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Royals, who have lost seven of nine.
Matt Capps converted his 11th consecutive save opportunity and 17th overall with a shaky ninth. After getting two quick outs, Capps allowed Teahen’s solo homer, then committed a fielding error and gave up a single to Olivo.
But pinch-hitter Mike Jacobs struck out looking with the tying runs aboard.
Morgan, Jaramillo and Wilson had combined for five home runs in 579 at-bats this season heading into Friday’s game for a punchless offense that ranked 26th in the majors in homers.
“I guess it was a day for the little guys,” Morgan said.
Morgan’s homer was his second in nine games after going 145 games in his career with only one. It came off Royals starter Gil Meche with Andrew McCutchen aboard and one out in the third.
The next inning Jaramillo hit his third homer into the same section in right field.
“I certainly feel good at the plate right now,” said Jaramillo, who homered Wednesday. “I feel comfortable, and I know a lot of the guys do.”
Wilson added a solo shot to left in the sixth, his third of the season and second in seven games.
“Everybody can hit homers — it’s just sometimes you don’t have to swing for it,” Wilson said. “For guys like us, it’s more like a line drive that you get under it a little bit. It’s nice to be able to get power from unexpected sources.”
Pittsburgh’s speed contributed to taking a 4-2 lead in the fifth. McCutchen led off with a walk and stole second. Morgan then reached on a bunt single, with McCutchen going to third. Freddy Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center.
Meche (4-7) was charged with four runs, five hits and three walks in five innings. He allowed nine runs in 3 1-3 innings in his most recent start.
“I didn’t feel real smooth out there,” Meche said. “Tonight was terrible. I just didn’t feel great, didn’t have good arm speed, didn’t locate. It was pretty much the same story as the last start.”