Here was more proof Tuesday night, as if any were needed, that no lead is safe these days for the Royals. They held a four-run lead this time with just four outs to go against the Texas Rangers.
Should be safe, right?
Instead a walk, an error and then a complete bullpen meltdown swirled into disastrous 6-5 loss at Kauffman Stadium.
The Rangers scored four times in the eighth, all with two outs, before scoring the winning run on a two-out passed ball in the ninth inning.
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Is it any wonder that manager Trey Hillman received his first big-league ejection in the middle of it all?
Ian Kinsler opened the ninth with a hard double to left against Yasuhiko Yabuta, who blew a save by allowing two two-out singles in the eighth. Kinsler went to third on Michael Young’s grounder to second.
Ramon Ramirez replaced Yabuta and struck out Josh Hamilton before issuing an intentional walk to Milton Bradley.
Ramirez buried a sinker with David Murphy at the plate that scooted past catcher John Buck. Kinsler beat Ramirez, and the throw, to the plate for the winning run.
C.J. Wilson pitched around a two-out threat in the ninth for his 12th save in 14 opportunities. Eddie Guardado, 1-1, was the winning pitcher.
Yabuta, 1-1, got the loss in addition to a blown save.
The Royals made things interesting with two outs in the ninth. Alex Gordon looped a single to right, and Josě Guillen reached on an error by first baseman Chris Shelton.
The threat died when Mark Teahen took a third strike. That brought the collapse full circle because it was an error by Teahen that fueled Texas’ four-run eighth.
It was all-too-familiar stuff.
The Royals blew five leads over the three previous games in New York. And their May 28 collapse against the Twins, when they failed to hold a five-run lead in the ninth, is still a recent scar.
Hillman was ejected in the Royals’ eighth after a close called strike by home-plate umpire Mike Everitt on Joey Gathright. Everitt appeared to warn Hillman once before signaling the ejection.
Texas scored four runs in the eighth inning after Teahen’s error at first kept the inning alive. Ron Mahay retired the first two hitters before issuing a walk but should have been out of the inning when Hamilton grounded to short.
Mike Aviles’ throw to first was low, but Teahen should have made the catch. His error brought Brett Tomko into the game — and things went downhill in a hurry.
Bradley pulled a two-run double into the right-field corner, and Murphy followed with an RBI single. That quickly, the lead was down to 5-4.
Yabuta replaced Tomko and gave up singles to Gerald Laird and Chris Shelton, and the game was tied. A walk to Brandon Boggs loaded the bases before Ramon Vazquez ended the inning with a fly to right.
All four runs were unearned to the Royals, but Tomko was charged individually with two earned runs.
Gil Meche was positioned for his first victory in five starts after limiting the Rangers to one run and four hits in six innings. The difference? Avoiding the big inning, a bugaboo for much of the season.
Texas helped on that count with some curious base-running.
Rangers starter Kevin Millwood beat the Royals when the clubs played last month at Texas. This time, he was lucky to escape with a no-decision after allowing five runs and 11 hits in six innings.
The Royals built a 3-0 lead with single runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings. After the Rangers broke through for one in the sixth, the Royals answered with two in their half of the inning for a 5-1 lead.
That’s what Meche handed to the bullpen.
The Royals grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Guillen’s one-out RBI single — his 49th RBI of the season and his 35th in his last 32 games.
David DeJesus led off with a single and moved to second on Mark Grudzielanek’s grounder to short. Gordon walked before Guillen rammed a single into center.
The Royals extended their lead to 2-0 in the fourth after Guillen led off with a double into the left-center gap. A walk and a fielder’s-choice grounder put runners at first and third with one out for John Buck, who lined an RBI single into left field.
Gordon’s sixth homer of the season, a one-out laser in the fifth, boosted the lead to 3-0. It was also his first homer in 108 at-bats dating to May 9 against Baltimore’s Steve Trachsel.
Meche found trouble again in the sixth. Vazquez led off with a double, and Kinsler worked back from an 0-2 count for a walk. Michael Young’s single extended his hitting streak to 23 games and loaded the bases.
The 23-game streak is the best this season in the majors.
Hamilton got Texas on the board with a fielder’s-choice grounder to second. Hamilton’s RBI was his 70th of the season, easily the best in either league.
Meche stiffened and stranded two runners before the Royals scored twice in their sixth.
Buck and Aviles led off with singles, and the latter scooted past Bradley in right field for a two-base error. Aviles wound up on third. Gathright blooped a single over a drawn-in infield, and the Royals led 5-1.