For the Royals, at least on this day, ugly is the new beautiful.
By JAYSON JENKS
Special to The Star
Twice the Royals hit potential double-play grounders in the 10th inning, and twice the Texas Rangers botched the plays. And because of that bit of much-needed fortune, the Royals pulled out a 7-6 comeback win and avoided a series sweep.
Ugly? Come on, Royals manager Ned Yost said. How can you call that game ugly?
For starters, there were those Texas errors.
After Billy Butler walked to open the inning, Salvador Perez rifled a grounder right at shortstop Alberto Gonzalez. If handled cleanly, it would have been a simple double play, but the ball skipped away.
Jeff Francoeur followed with a soft chopper to rookie third baseman Mike Olt, whose throw to second sailed into the outfield. That allowed pinch-runner Eric Hosmer to race around third and score.
Were due one of those wins every once in a while, Yost said, and we got ours today.
It all came after closer Greg Holland wobbled before eluding serious trouble in the top of the 10th.
Holland gave up singles to Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz before loading the bases by walking Mike Napoli with one out.
But Holland bunkered down with the help of shortstop Alcides Escobar, whose diving catch on a line drive saved at least one run from scoring.
Holland ended the inning by striking out Olt on a full count.
I wanted to jump up and down and scream like a little kid, Holland said. But I said, OK, now weve got two (outs). Just bear down and get this out. It gave me new life.
The Royals struck first Sunday when Perez doubled and drove in two runs in the opening inning. But that lead disappeared in a sloppy fourth.
Josh Hamilton led off with a drive to right, which turned into a double when the ball skipped under Francoeurs glove.
Hamilton moved to third on a Hochevar wild pitch and scored on a Beltre single. After Hochevar hit Cruz with a pitch, Beltre scored on David Murphys weak grounder to Butler.
Butler tried to turn a double play but his throw flew over shortstop Alcides Escobars head.
Hochevar walked Mitch Moreland before Elvis Andrus triple scored two runs, the final blow in a self-destructive five-run inning.
Hochevar regrouped quickly and exited after six innings having allowed four hits and five runs (only one earned).
He kept us in the baseball game, catcher Brayan Pena said.
Two of the guys whose mistakes led to Texas big inning Francoeur and Butler made amends not long after.
In the fourth, Francoeur lofted an 0-2 pitch to right-center field that just cleared the wall for a solo homer. It was only his third home run since the start of July, and it came on a pitch right down the middle.
Thats exactly what I missed, said Francoeur, who recently sat out four games to work with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. You look at the two hits I had today, both on 93 mile-per-hour fastballs. Thats what me and Seitz have been working our (tails) off for is getting back to hitting those and hunting those.
Then, in the fifth, Butler delivered an RBI single with two outs that cut Texas lead to 5-4.
Pena gave the Royals a 6-5 lead with a two-run homer in the sixth on a hanging breaking pitch. It was Penas first home run since May 28 (73 at-bats) but four of his last five homers have come against Texas.
My at-bat before, he struck me out by throwing a lot of breaking balls, Pena said. Im not going to say I was waiting for that pitch, but, in my mind, I was thinking to get something up and not chase like I did before.
The Rangers tied it when Aaron Crow gave up a walk and two hits before Tim Collins replaced him and allowed the Royals to escape tied at six.
That set the stage for another extra-inning win the Royals second in four games.
Against a team of that caliber and as hard-fought as this series was and for us to come up with nothing going into today, Yost said, it was a beautiful win.