Royals 8, Rangers 7
Mario Lisson’s one-out single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Friday afternoon lifted the Royals to a wild 8-7 victory over the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium.
Lisson’s single was a hopper up the middle through a drawn-in infield against right-hander Andrew Laughter. Corey Smith scored from third without a throw.
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The Royals sailed into the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead before Texas tied the score against Matt Wright without getting a hit. Wright did much of the damage all by himself by issuing two walks and committing a throwing error.
Yasuhiko “Sheikh” Yabuta then faced five batters in the eighth and yielded four hits and a walk. Brandon Boggs broke the tie with an RBI double past first before John Whittleman, a minor-leaguer imported for the game, whacked a two-run homer for a 7-4 lead.
The Royals, 4-3-2, pulled even in their eighth with three runs against Neftali Feliz. Mitch Maier and Lisson drove in runs before Feliz issued a bases-loaded walk. Feliz did strand three runners by striking out Mike Jacobs.
Ron Mahay escaped a bases-loaded jam in the Texas ninth and got the victory when the Royals won the game in their final at-bat. The two teams had already decided not to play beyond nine innings.
Lisson, 24, had RBI singles in his two at-bats after entering the game at zero for six. He batted just .225 last season at Class AA Northwest Arkansas but was still considered sufficiently valuable to keep on the organization’s 40-man roster.
Gil Meche produced two dominating and pain-free innings earlier in a 12-6 victory over the Rangers in a “B” on the Royals’ primary practice field. Meche struck out five in a 29-pitch performance that also included two grounders, one for a single and one for the final out in the second inning.
“My body felt great,” he said, “but I feel I’ve still got a little left to go. I’m probably still a couple of miles short. But if I can locate like that, I’ll be happy because I’m only going to get stronger as spring training goes along.”
A sore lower back slowed Meche earlier in camp before he made his spring debut last Sunday in 37-pitch first inning against the Angels.
The Royals’ desire for more control over Meche’s pitch count led to his appearance in the “B” game. He struck out the side around a one-out single in the first inning, then registered two more strikeouts in the second before closing his day with a routine grounder to first.
Jacobs was three for 18 before his opposite-field homer in the fifth inning. Alex Gordon’s leadoff double ignited a two-run second inning and was his fourth extra-base hit in four games.
Lefty Heath Phillips, a long shot to make the roster, drew the start when the Royals shifted Meche to the “B” game. Phillips responded by limiting the Rangers to one hit in three scoreless innings.
“I’m grateful for that chance they gave me,” Phillips said. “I feel that every time I get the ball, I’ve got to go out there and prove something because these guys don’t know me.”
Phillips has allowed one run and two hits in five innings in three appearances.
David Laverentz is Dale Rohr’s replacement as the Royals’ vice president for finance and administration. Rohr recently retired after 34 years with the club but continues to serve on the board of directors.
Laverentz will be the club’s chief financial officer. He joins the Royals from the Big Four accounting firm of KPMG, where he worked as a senior manager in the audit practice.
Billy Butler struck out three times in four at-bats in the “B” game in his first game action since being hit in the left hand last Sunday against the Angels. Butler crushed a three-run homer in other at-bat.
Hillman remains unwilling to announce Meche or anyone else as the Royals’ starting pitcher for the season opener in Chicago. That decision isn’t likely to come anytime soon, either.
“You can call it paranoia,” Hillman said. “I guess that’s what it is. I know what I’m worried about. I’m worried about the injuries.”
Meche started the last two season openers and is widely acknowledged by teammates and club officials as the staff’s leader. Even so, Hillman turned aside the suggestion that Meche, barring injuries, is likely to start the opener.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Hillman said. “I’m not going to back myself into a corner in any way, shape or form. We’ll wait until we get everybody built up for five or six innings and let you know what our plans are.”
Reliever Kyle Farnsworth followed a shaky first spring appearance by working a one-two-three fifth inning with two strikeouts.
Butler’s homer in the “B” game was just one of four hit by the Royals. Tommy Murphy, Kila Ka'aihue and Shane Costa also went deep. Costa had three hits in four at-bats.
Birthday wishes to outfielder José Duarte, who turns 24 today.
It was 40 years ago Friday — March 6, 1969 — that the Royals played the first exhibition game in franchise history. They collected 16 hits but suffered a 9-8 loss to the Montreal Expos, another expansion team, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
John Buck is six for 10 after getting a single in his only official at-bat. He also was hit by a pitch.
The Royals make their first and only trip this spring Saturday to the new Goodyear complex that serves as home to the Cleveland Indians. Kyle Davies and Horacio Ramirez are each scheduled for four innings.
Royals (RHP Kyle Davies) vs. Indians (RHP Anthony Reyes), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Goodyear, Ariz.
“Definitely better than the first time.”
—reliever Kyle Farnsworth on a one-two-three inning in his second spring appearance.