SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Surprise Recreation Campus title belongs to the Royals.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Xavier Nady and Brett Hayes delivered two-out RBI singles in the eighth and ninth innings Sunday that carried the Royals to a 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers on a chilly, windy afternoon at Surprise Stadium.
The Royals finished their weekend series with a 2-0-1 edge against their co-tenant neighbors. That clinches the campus crown because the two teams play just once more this spring.
Conditions were tough. It was 56 degrees at first pitch, but a stiff wind made it seem far colder. Gusts of more than 30 mph toward right field also turned fly balls into a challenge under high cloudless skies.
“The wind was so bad,” Royal starter Luis Mendoza said. “I just tried to let the sinker move by itself. I just tried to throw it in the middle and get grounders. It worked.”
Mendoza yielded one run and four hits in four innings while throwing 45 of 65 pitches for strikes. It’s still to be determined whether he will pitch again before he departs Saturday to join Mexico for the World Baseball Classic.
The Royals scored four times in the first inning by spanking Rangers starter Matt Harrison for six hits. Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Max Ramirez and Johnny Giavotella drove in runs.
John Lamb yielded four hits in the Texas fifth after inheriting a 5-1 lead but limited the damage to one run. But the Rangers pulled even in the sixth after Tim Collins opened the inning with successive walks. Leury Garcia tied the game with a two-run homer.
The Royals regained the lead in the eighth on Nady’s RBI single and added an insurance run in the ninth on Hayes’ RBI single. Michael Mariot closed out the victory by pitching around a two-out error in the Texas ninth.
Lefty John Lamb drew scrutiny after replacing Luis Mendoza to start the fifth inning. Lamb was generally viewed as the organization’s top pitching prospect before undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2011 to repair a torn elbow ligament.
“It felt good and exciting to get back out there,” he said after allowing four hits but just one run. “It looked like it was coming out pretty live. I felt good out there. My command can always get better, but I’m always going to be hard on myself with that.”
Lamb threw 16 of 20 pitches for strikes. He touched 89 mph on the stadium radar gun and generally worked from 84-87. Lamb generally pitched in the low 90s prior to surgery.
Two of the club’s top relievers — Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera — struggled to throw strikes in one-inning outings. Collins threw 15 of 30 pitches for strikes, while Herrera had just eight strikes in 17 pitches.
Collins inherited a 5-2 lead to start the sixth but walked the first two hitters, and both ended up scoring. He also threw a wild pitch before surrendering a two-run homer to Leury Garcia, which pulled the Rangers even at 5-5.
The Royals led 6-5 when Herrera started the eighth. He gave up a leadoff double and a one-out walk but stranded both runners by striking out Jeff Baker and retiring Julio Borbon on a fielder’s-choice grounder to second.
“Timmy Collins was all over the place but with electric stuff,” manager Ned Yost said. “Same with Herrera. His command was off, but his stuff was fantastic.”
Salvy Perez went three for three before exiting the game in the fifth. He is five for nine through three games and in line for regular duty in the coming week before leaving Saturday to join the Dominican Republic for the World Baseball Classic
First baseman Eric Hosmer committed an error on a grounder in the second inning — a run scored on the play but would have scored anyway — and was saved from a second error by an alert Johnny Giavotella with two outs in the fourth.
The Rangers had a runner at second when Brandon Allen pulled a sharp grounder that got through Hosmer, but Giavotella collected ball and threw to pitcher Luis Mendoza at first for the out.
“The first one, me and Salvy (Perez) had a pick-off going,” Hosmer said, “and (the grounder) caught me on my footing. The second one just popped out. No excuse. Just missed it.”
The Royals finished with four errors — one each by Hosmer, right fielder Jeff Francoeur, catcher Manny Piña and first baseman Brandon Wood. There was also a passed ball charged to Perez.
Some of that might be due to the conditions … although the Rangers had no errors.
Plans call for right-hander Felipe Paulino to return Tuesday to the mound for the first time since exiting a June 6 start against Minnesota in the first inning because of elbow pain. He underwent Tommy John surgery on July 3.
Paulino is scheduled for 20 pitches, all fastballs. His recovery plan targets a mid-July return to active duty. Paulino, 29, was 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven starts last season when he suffered the injury.
Manager Ned Yost reported reliever Francisley Bueno had no day-after problems after suffering a bruise on his left wrist when he reached for a sharp grounder with his pitching hand in Saturday’s game.
Texas right-hander Nick Tepesch, an alum of Blue Springs and Missouri, struck out the side in the Royals’ third. He got Miguel Tejada and Ramirez looking before Giavotella swung through a full-count pitch.
Tepesch worked around a one-out bunt single in a scoreless fourth.
Lefty Noel Arguelles, the once highly-regarded Cuban defector, is scheduled to follow starter Chris Dwyer to the mound in Monday’s game against Arizona.
Arguelles, 23, underwent shoulder surgery after signing a five-year deal for $6.9 million in 2010 and is just 8-19 with a 4.92 ERA in 46 starts over the last two seasons.
J.C. Gutierrez, Nate Adcock, Sugar Ray Marimon, Atahualpa Severino and Brian Sanches are slotted to follow Arguelles.
Royals (LHP Chris Dwyer) vs. Diamondbacks (RHP Randall Delgado), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
“I’ve got it in the tank. Now, it’s just day by day.”
— Royals left-hander John Lamb, assessing his performance.
Countdown To Opening Day: 35 days