After seven frames of efficacious pitching from the bipolar Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals pen walked the tight rope across piranha-filled waters with a bullpen in which Greg Holland (who still ended up having to start warming up in the pen), Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera were unavailable due to being used in each of the previous three games.
The Royals struggled to put together much in the way of a substantive offensive attack this evening. Facing Derek Holland, who was making his 2014 debut following a bizarre knee injury in which his dog did a number on his left knee while going up a set of stairs, the Royals whiffed six times, walked none, and managed just six base-runners. Four of those base-runners reached by way of doubles, all of which came with one or fewer outs. Of those doubles, one saw the man who hit it cross the plate while Derek Holland stood on the mound. That run--the only one the Rangers' starter allowed--came in the third when Alcides Escobar led the inning off with a double* to the warning track in deep left center, and (after a needless Christian Colon sacrifice bunt that resulted in a broken middle finger) Omar Infante followed with a double* of his own to shallow left field.
The reason for the asterisks, of course, is that left fielder Ryan Rua had a brutal third inning in which he didn't convert two balls he had plays on into outs. Had he not gone so far out of his way to get to these hit balls, Rua would have been charged with two errors. Neither Escobar nor Infante would have normally reached base safely, but baseball is a fickle mistress and the Royals were given the gift of a run by way of doubles* sandwiching an inane third-inning bunt.
Other than that little spurt of offense, the Royals got next to nothing done against Holland, who looked much better than reports from his rehab starts would have led one to believe.
For his part, Guthrie kept things under control, working around six singles, a double, and a triple, ceding just one run despite recording just one strikeout. Guthrie was helped a lot by the defense of his middle infield, who turned three double plays in support of the Stormin' Mormon.
With the game knotted at ones, both squads turned to their relief corps in the eighth inning.
In the top of the eighth, Francisely Bueno came in to face Leonys Martin, who grounded out on the first and only pitch that Bueno would throw. With a slew of righties to follow, Ned Yost brought in Jason Frasor to Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios, Adrian Beltre, and Ryan Rua. Andrus lined out to Infante, but Alex Rios worked a single past the diving second baseman, putting the go-ahead run aboard. With Beltre at the dish, Rios took off for second only to have Salvador Perez hit Rios with the throw. The ball skittered into center and Rios stood on third base with Beltre still waiting patiently with a 2 - 0 count working in his favor. Yost had Frasor intentionally walk Beltre to face Rua. After falling behind 2 - 0 to Rua, Frasor worked back to a 2 - 2 count. Then But I Don't Know What To Do With Those Tossed Salads And Scrambled Eggs sneaked one by Rua and got the called third strike to escape the inning without a run allowed.
In the home half of the eighth with Michael Kirkman pitching for Texas, Mike Moustakas blooped a soft fly ball to shallow right and was beneficiary of the ball taking a weird bounce when it kissed the grass. He raced to second and the go-ahead run was in scoring position. Moustakas was lifted for New Royal speedster Terrance Gore, who was making his Major League debut as a pinch runner. After Jarrod Dyson bunted foul and watched a second strike go by, Jarrod Dyson ripped a one-hopper to Adam Rosales who was drawn in on the grass and rifled a throw to Beltre at third, nabbing Gore in the fielder's choice.
With Infante flying out to shallow center field immediately after Dyson stole second, it looked like the Royals were set to waste yet another runner in scoring position. Alex Gordon fell behind in the count to Michael Kirkman, who was looking pretty good against the Royals' left-handed bats, so Jarrod Dyson took off for third, stealing for the second time in the inning. Then Kirkman let one get away from him and plunked Gordon in the shoulder. Ron Washington went to the pen with the right-handed Salvador Perez coming up to the plate, grabbing Jon Edwards to face the Royals' catcher. After falling behind 1 - 2 and fouling off the third pitch of the at-bat, Salvador Perez ripped a ball up the line that burned its way through the webbing of Beltre's glove at third, plating the go-ahead run for Kansas City.
Of course, without the services of the aforementioned lions of the Royals' bullpen, Ned Yost had to turn to Aaron Crow to close out the game. Crow's first two pitches to Adam Rosales missed their intended destinations horribly, so badly in fact that Salvador Perez needed to come out to the mound and talk some sense into the former Royals' All-Star. Then Rosales inexplicably swung at a pitch up and likely out of the zone and popped up to Escobar in the grass behind second. After inducing a routine Tomas Telis ground out to short, Crow fell behind to Rangers' rookie Rougned Odor before giving up a ground-ball single to left. With the tying run on base, Washington elected to send in Luis Sardinas to pinch hit. Not that the Rangers have a lot of options since they've suffered an absurd amount of injuries this year, but Washington decided that he'd go ahead and put a no-bat middle-infielder who slashed .281/.302/.364 in the hitter-friendly environs of the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues in to pinch hit with the game on the line. Yes, Sardinas bats from the left side of the plate and Daniel Robertson who he was replacing does not, but this would only be likely to work if Sardinas could hit a lick.
Crow struck him out.
With the Tigers having come from behind to win in Cleveland, this win means the Royals still hold a half-game lead in the Central with Sunday's game in which the Royals have a win expectancy of roughly 8% 20 days from being completed meaning that the two teams are probably more accurately described as being almost tied for the division lead.