ARLINGTON, Texas | Here it was, that game the Royals have been waiting for; a game when they won by simply outslugging the opposition. It doesn’t matter — does it? — that the opposition was the Texas Rangers.
José Guillen matched a career high with five RBIs, two of which came on a moon-shot homer in the fourth inning. Mark Grudzielanek returned from a five-game absence caused by a sore lower back and went four for six with three doubles and three runs.
The result was a 9-5 victory at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. The nine runs marked a season high. The Royals’ previous best came last Friday in an 8-4 victory over Toronto.
And yet, the Royals were clinging to a 7-5 lead before gaining breathing room on Mark Teahen’s two-run triple in the eighth against Joaquin Benoit.
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It shouldn’t have been this hard.
The Royals staked Brett Tomko to leads of 5-0 and 7-2. That should have been enough. Texas is reeling right now with baseball’s worst record at 9-18, and rumors are flying of an imminent managerial change.
And the Rangers had a few close calls — blown calls, probably — go against them in the first inning. They should have been down for the count.
Yet, Tomko couldn’t make it through four innings. He required 89 pitches just to get 10 outs while yielding five runs and seven hits before forcing the bullpen into action.
The bullpen came through, though. Ron Mahay, Jimmy Gobble, Ramon Ramirez and Joakim Soria combined to blank Texas on three hits over the final 5 2/3 innings. Mahay, 1-0, got the victory. Soria worked the ninth in a non-save situation.
The Royals built their early lead against Texas starter Jason Jennings, who turned in another miserable performance before leaving the game in the third because of an irritated ulnar nerve.
Before leaving, Jennings, 0-5, gave up five runs and eight hits in his two-plus innings. His ERA now stands at 8.56.
The Royals turned in a series of sparkling defensive plays, too. Shortstop Tony Peña ended Texas’ two-run third with a nice pickup on Chris Shelton’s hot grounder.
Mahay closed out a three-run fourth, after replacing Tomko, when first baseman Ross Gload and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek handled hot grounders.
Grudzielanek made a terrific over-the-shoulder running catch on Michael Young’s looper into short right for the second out in the sixth. Teahen then ran down Josh Hamilton’s drive at the right-field wall for the final out in the sixth.
The Royals improved to 12-14 and have won three of four since stumbling through a seven-game losing streak.
The Royals caught a couple of breaks in jumping to a 3-0 lead in the first inning after Grudzielanek bounced a one-out single up the middle.
Alex Gordon floated a soft fly into short left that bounced in front of, and then past, Frank Catalanotto. That was the first break.
It was scored a double.
Guillen followed with a bouncer to third. Grudzielanek charged home but appeared out on the throw from Ramon Vazquez, but umpire Bill Welke ruled catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was late with the tag.
That was the second break.
Teahen’s RBI single made it 2-0 before Billy Butler loaded the bases with another single. Gload produced another run when he avoided a double play on a grounder to second.
It soon got worse for the Rangers.
Ian Kinsler beefed at Welke’s called third strike while leading off the Texas first. Replays indicated Kinsler might have had a point, but he pressed it too far, apparently, and got ejected.
The Royals extended their lead to 5-0 in the second without any breaks.
David DeJesus sent a one-out single into center and went to third on Grudzielanek’s double. An intentional walk to Gordon loaded the bases before Guillen pulled a two-run single through the left side.
Jennings experienced pain in his arm in starting Miguel Olivo with a ball after Gload’s leadoff single in the third. Scott Feldman replaced Jennings and, for the moment, prevented further damage.
Tomko’s problems started when he began the third by yielding successive singles to German Duran, Michael Young and Hamilton. That produced one run. Another scored on David Murphy’s sacrifice fly.
It didn’t take long for the Royals to regain their five-run lead. Gordon led off the fourth with a single against reliever Scott Feldman, and Guillen followed with a towering homer to left.
It marked the seventh five-RBI game of Guillen’s career.
Tomko gave it right back and more.
Catalanotto led off the Texas fourth with a walk and scored on Saltalamacchia’s RBI double to left. Vazquez followed with an RBI single to right. Vazquez went to second on Duran’s sacrifice before Young pulled an RBI double to left.
That, finally, stirred manager Trey Hillman into action. In came Mahay, an ex-Ranger who escaped further damage by retiring Hamilton and Milton Bradley on ground balls _ albeit scorched grounders that required fine plays by Gload at first and Grudzielanek at second.