KANSAS CITY, Mo. —This makes twice now in less than three weeks that the Royals tried to trade punches with the Texas Rangers in the first game of a series. And twice now that they lost on points.
The Rangers hit four home runs Tuesday night against Gil Meche and, when that wasn't enough, they struck for two more runs against the Royals' bullpen in an 8-7 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
Say this much: It was entertaining.
The Royals reached double figures in hits for the eighth time in nine games and produced a bundle of fine defensive plays. It just wasn't enough when matched against Texas muscle.
Vladimir Guerrero led the assault with two homers and five RBIs. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz also hit homers. It was sufficient for the Rangers to make it five straight this season over the Royals.
Texas built leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 6-2 for starter Rich Harden, who gave it all back. The Rangers regained the lead with a two-run seventh against Brad Thompson (0-3) and Blake Wood.
The Royals closed to 8-7 but stranded four runners over the final three innings. They have lost three in a row and are now 6-5 since Ned Yost replaced Trey Hillman as manager.
Reliever Darren O'Day got the victory despite allowing one run and three hits in one inning after replacing Harden. Darren Oliver, Chris Ray and Neftali Feliz protected the one-run lead.
Feliz worked around a one-out walk in the ninth for his 13th save in 15 opportunities. He saved three games earlier this month when the Rangers swept a four-game series from the Royals at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas began that sweep by winning a 13-12 slugfest after the Royals rallied from an 8-0 deficit. The Royals took a 12-11 lead before Joakim Soria allowed successive two-out homers to Hamilton and Guerrero in the eighth inning.
The current series is a two-game set that concludes this afternoon.
Harden lasted just 5 1/3 innings before exiting after Willie Bloomquist's two-run triple closed the gap to 6-5. Jason Kendall then put down a suicide squeeze so perfectly against O'Day that it turned into a bunt single.
Bloomqust scored the tying run, and Harden had a no-decision.
Meche surrendered four homers in his six innings, including three that traveled more than 400 feet, and still escaped with a no-decision.
Guerrero hit two-run homers in the first and fifth innings. Hamilton and Cruz had back-to-back drives in the fourth inning. Hamilton's drive was tabulated at 448 feet and cleared the upper wall of the batter's eye in straight-away center field.
Thompson inherited a 6-6 tie to start the seventh and found immediate trouble. Elvis Andrus punched a single up the middle, which caromed off second base, and went to third on Michael Young's double to deep center.
Wood replaced Thompson and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Ian Kinsler; it probably should have been a double if not for a terrific diving catch by left fielder Scott Podsednik.
Even so, the Rangers had the lead again at 7-6.
Guerrero followed with an RBI double into the left-field corner for his fifth RBI of the game. That made it 8-6.
The Royals tried to answer, again, in their seventh. Mike Aviles led off with a single and went to third on Billy Butler's double through Young at third.
O'Day struck out Jose Guillen — Guillen's fourth strikeout of the game — before Texas manager Ron Washington called on Oliver, which turned Alberto Callaspo to the right side.
Callaspo delivered one run with a sacrifice fly to center, but Oliver kept the Rangers in front 8-7 by striking out Mitch Maier.
The Royals tried again in the eighth when Chris Getz led off with a single and went to second on a Bloomquist sacrifice. Ray replaced Oliver and retired Kendall on a pop to short. Podsednik walked, but Aviles flied to center.
Meche issued a one-out walk in the first inning to Young, which preceded Guerrero's first two-out out homer. It was a no-doubt bomb that caromed off the overhang at the back of the left-field bullpen.
Hamilton followed with a drive into the right-center gap that appeared ticketed for extra bases before Bloomquist, subbing for father-to-be David DeJesus, made a diving catch for the third out.
The Royals pulled even in the third after Yuniesky Betancourt led off with a double to left. He moved to third on Bloomquist's single through the right side and scored on Kendall's sacrifice fly to right.
Betancourt crashed into catcher Matt Treanor, who couldn't handle the hop from Cruz — and Betancourt took the worst of it. He reached back the tag the plate while sprawled on the ground.
Betancourt remained in the game through the fifth inning before exiting the game because of mild dizziness resulting for a blow to the head.
It was Guerrero again with two outs and one on in the fifth. It, too, was a bomb, soaring 421 feet to left for a 6-2 lead. The Royals closed to 6-3 on Butler's RBI double in the fifth.