The Blue Jays went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left-hander J.A. Happ surrendered a season-high six runs over 7 2/3 innings in front of 21,543 fans at Rogers Centre.
"When you get on one of those hot streaks that we were on, we were cashing those in," said manager John Gibbons, whose team had its nine-game winning streak snapped on Thursday.
"Vargas, I've only ever seen him good, even going back to his Seattle days. He's a crafty lefty, he keeps you off-balance, he never gives in ... We had some shots, but he was that much better."
Toronto entered the game with the best offense in the Major Leagues at 274 runs scored. It seemed like almost everyone on the roster was finding a way to contribute and the end result was the club scoring at least five runs in 16 games this month.
That production came to an end for at least one night as the Blue Jays had their lowest run total since April 25 vs. the Red Sox. The only other time in May that Toronto scored two runs or fewer came on May 18 in a series finale against the Rangers.
Despite the lack of runs, the offense had plenty of early chances against Vargas. Toronto had a runner in scoring position during each of the first three innings, but each time came away empty handed. Overall, the Blue Jays stranded 14 runners.
The trend was set in the first inning when Jose Reyes tripled to center field but was stranded as Melky Cabrera flew out to shallow left, Edwin Encarnacion popped out to second and Brett Lawrie flew out to end the inning.
"I think it's one of those things where he made some pitches to get out of it," Blue Jays catcher Erik Kratz said. "Did we chase a little bit farther out of the zone? Yeah, but if Melky gets the ball up in the air a little bit farther, he does his job right there.
"Nobody was trying to be the hero, everyone was just trying to do their job and we continued to try and do that the rest of the game, and he did a good job of keeping the big inning off the board."
The only real mistake Vargas made came in the fourth inning when Jose Bautista went the opposite way with a solo homer to right-center field. Bautista's 14th of the season was his second in as many games, but it was the lone bright spot on offense.
Besides that one homer, Vargas was relatively flawless. He even found a way to keep the red-hot Encarnacion at bay. Encarnacion entered tied with Mickey Mantle for the most home runs in May by an American League player with 16. Encarnacion went hitless in two at-bats, but he did finish with three walks. He'll have one more game to try and match Barry Bonds for the all-time Major League record for homers in May at 17.
"I had a real good feeling about Vargy because this club is an extremely dangerous club when they extend their hands," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Vargas, who allowed one run in six innings with seven strikeouts. "And Vargy is really good at pounding the ball in and then off-speed down and away. The whole thing was, could he execute his pitches and he did."
Happ gave the Blue Jays some much-needed innings, but it came in a losing cause. He struggled to keep the ball in the park and had plenty of difficulty with center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a run scored.
Kansas City scored one in the second on an RBI single by Cain and two more in the fourth on a home run by Alex Gordon. Another Royals rally came in the sixth when Gordon drew a one-out walk, stole second and came around to score on another RBI single by Cain. The final blow was Cain's two-run shot to left in the eighth.
Happ allowed nine hits and two walks while striking out six in his longest outing since April 10, 2011, as a member of the Astros. It marked the second consecutive outing that he went at least seven innings and while the final line wasn't pretty it did provide some valuable rest to a bullpen that had multiple pitchers unavailable for action.
"They put some good swings on me," Happ said. "They were aggressive and they definitely made me pay for my mistakes."
Toronto has lost two in a row and this marks the first time since May 9-11 vs. the Angels that the Blue Jays won't win a series. They still have a chance to split with a wins on Saturday and Sunday, but more than anything the club will be looking to avoid the type of letdown that sometimes follows an extended winning streak.
"Just the way winning is contagious, I think losing can be contagious," Kratz said. "But I don't think it's the case with this team. I think we expect to win, when you win nine games in a row, you expect to come out the next day and win. That mentality hasn't changed the last two nights. We were a couple inches away last night from winning and tonight we were a couple hits away from being back in this game."