Tonight the Rangers and Royals seemed intent playing a back-and-forth game--taking leads and giving them away like they were handing out sub-prime mortgages that were sure to default in mere months--with even the Royals vaunted bullpen getting into the mix.
Edinson Volquez was relatively ineffective tonight, pitching to just one batter in the sixth before getting pulled by necessity while the Royals nursed just a one-run lead. In his five-plus innings, Volquez walked and struck out three Rangers apiece, but he allowed six hits, including a lead-off long-ball to Shin-Soo Choo to dig the Royals an early hole in the first. He allowed three runs while he was in the game and was pulled after allowing a lead-off Kyle Blanks double in the sixth, which Ryan Madson was unable to prevent from crossing the plate.
The aforementioned Choo dong gave the Rangers a 1 - 0 lead heading into the second, but Eric Hosmer matched his feat with a 404-foot second deck shot into DEEP right field in the top of the second, knotting the game at ones. After stealing second in the third and advancing to third on an Elvis Andrus single in the third, Delino DeShields Jr. scored on a Prince Fielder single to put the Rangers back up by a run, 2 - 1. In the fifth, following another lead-off walk for DeShields, he once again swiped second against the best run-stopper in the league. He advanced to third on another Andrus single and scored on a Prince Fielder fly-ball to center field, giving the Rangers a 3 - 1 lead.
Down two runs, the Royals went to work in the sixth. Lorenzo Cain started things off with a double and was immediately driven in by an Eric Hosmer single. Having not heard anything about avoiding the Cubanoid, Texas starter Nick Martinez thought it wise to pitch to him. Kendrys Morales doubled in Hosmer, tying the game at three runs apiece. Alex Gordon flew out, but Salvador Perez reached on an Elvis Andrus throwing error that took Prince Fielder off the bag at first, leaving Royals at first and third with one out. Luckily, as all the hoppers on the corners in Baltimore know, Omar comin'. Infante hit a sacrifice fly to left field just deep enough to plate Morales, and the Royals held their first lead of the night at 4 - 3.
After Madson allowed the inherited runner to score in the bottom of the sixth, Mike Moustakas socked a dong to right off lefty reliever Alex Claudio, putting the Royals back up by the score of 5 - 4.
With the Rangers getting weak contact on nearly everything Luke Hochevar threw in the seventh, Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar limited the Rangers' four hits in the inning to just one run with sterling defensive plays to keep Texas from taking the lead. After Shin-Soo Choo kicked off the inning with a single, Rangers manager Jeff Banister put on the hit-and-run with Elvis Andrus at the dish. Andrus took an ugly chop at a high pitch and poked a grounder through the hole on the left side of the infield. As he was off before the pitch reached home, Choo came around second looking for third as Gordon came to the ball. On the run and with his momentum taking him toward second, Gordon rifled a perfect throw to an expectant Mike Moustakas, who cradled the ball in his mitt as Choo's leg hit leather. Prince Fielder worked a full count before flying out to Lorenzo Cain in center to give Hochevar his second out of the frame. Then Adrian Beltre followed with a soft liner to right, and with two outs, Andrus was off on contact, so Hochevar found himself facing Kyle Blanks with runners on the corners, the runner on third again representing the tying run. On a check swing, Kyle Blanks singled weakly up the line in shallow right, and the game was tied at five apiece and runners on the corners once again. Blanks was lifted for pinch-runner Leonys Martin, and ex-Royal Carlos Peguero stepped to the plate. Peguero feebly stuck his bat out and popped a low, slow liner over the mound, but Alcides Escobar closed and ripped the go-ahead run out of the air on a dive into the grass just to the first-base side of second, maintaining a 5 - 5 game in the seventh.
Wade Davis did what he does in the eighth, and then the Royals came to bat against Neftali Feliz in the top of the ninth.
Jarrod Dyson led off with a weak pop up to short, but Alcides Escobar grounded a single up the middle with one out, giving the Royals a chance to take the lead. Mike Moustakas followed with a ground-ball single to center of his own, and Escobar went first-to-third with just one out. Lorenzo Cain hit a grounder to the right side, scoring Escobar as the go-ahead run for Kansas City. Feliz intentionally walked Hosmer to face Morales, and this time pitching to Morales didn't blow up in their face.
With Greg Holland on the mound in the ninth, one would assume that even just a 6 - 5 lead was safe. Not tonight. Shin-Soo Choo, who did nothing but put bat to ball tonight, led off with a single and was promptly lifted for a pinch-runner in the form of Jake Smolinski. Andrus bunted Smolinski to second, but Prince Fielder grounded sharply to Mike Moustakas, who looked Smolinski back to second before recording the second out of the inning at first with ease. After working the count full, Adrian Beltre eventually deposited a liner to center to drive in the run. With Carlos Corporan at the plate, Salvador Perez snagged an 0-1 curveball in the dirt and caught Adrian Beltre sleeping at first, rifling a pick-off throw to Eric Hosmer that initially saw Beltre called safe before Ned Yost challenged the bad call successfully, getting the out at first and letting the Royals escape to extras with the game once again tied, this time at 6 - 6.
To lead off the tenth, Alex Gordon hung a dong of the game-winning variety into the bleachers just inside the foul pole in right.
After three quick outs to follow, Greg Holland came back out for a second inning to face Carlos Corporan, Carlos Peguero, and Tommy Field. This time he did what he didn't do in the ninth and sent the Rangers down with ease and in order.
As the Tigers won at home against Minnesota tonight in ten, the Royals victory meant that they retained a one-game lead in the American League Central. They did so thanks to sterling defense and three dongs from their franchise cornerstones, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon. Somehow the Royals bullpen found the way to blow a lead three separate times, but Kansas City--channeling the Royals of the 2014 postseason--battled back from a deficit twice and taking the lead four separate times from the sixth inning on through the tenth.