KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
This 4-3 loss to Texas on Wednesday won't qualify as one of the lower points in the Royals' season. Not even close. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be kicking themselves at letting one get away.
Start with the first inning when a failure to make two seemingly routine plays, along with a missed call, resulted in Texas getting two gift runs.
Now add the offensive futility of going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, which contributed to10 stranded runners. And this is what you get.
"We had opportunities when we smoked balls," manager Ned Yost said. "And we had opportunities when we didn't do what we wanted to accomplish. At times, we need to have better plans of attack individually in what we're trying to accomplish."
The flip side to all of this, of course, is Texas did make plays and did maximize opportunities. And that's why the Rangers are 75-58 and leading second-place Oakland by 9 1/2 games in the American League West Division.
Sure, there were nice moments. Yuniesky Betancourt hit another homer, his 15th, and had an RBI double in addition to a sparkling throw for an out from deep, deep shortstop on a Nelson Cruz grounder.
Mitch Maier had three hits. Brayan Pena went 2 for 3 with a walk and pushed his average above the Mendoza Line to .212. That's notable since Pena is in line for a significant increase in playing time with veteran Jason Kendall scheduled to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
Heck, starter Bryan Bullington (1-4) deserved a better fate than indicated by a line showing four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He should have escaped the first inning unscathed.
"I walked the leadoff guy," Bullington said, "but I still had a chance to get out of the inning. Cruz hit a six-hopper that was just in the right spot to get through and score the two that ended up being the difference."
The Royals didn't go quietly either against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz in the ninth. Wilson Betemit and Billy Butler sent Cruz to the right-field wall for the game's final two outs.
"We play in a big park," Butler said. "In Texas, we may have had two home runs back-to-back there. But we're not in Texas."
About that first inning: Elvis Andrus led off with a walk and stole second when crew chief Mike Reilly missed a call. (Replays are often inconclusive; this one wasn't. It was that kind of night.)
Murphy sent a soft fly into center that fooled Blanco before falling for a single. Andrus expected the ball to be caught and only reached third once it dropped.
Vladimir Guerrero struck out, but Murphy stole second on the final strike without a throw.
Even so, Bullington should have been out of the inning when Cruz hit a routine hopper toward third — until it inexplicably veered past a stationary Betemit for a two-run single.
"I was playing close to the line," Betemit said, "because he pulls the ball. I thought I was right there, and then the ball went just went zoom."
The Royals never really recovered.
Surgery for Kendall — In the end, it took a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder to knock ironman catcher Jason Kendall out of the Royals' lineup.
Kendall, 36, is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery Friday on his right shoulder after a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam earlier this week revealed extensive tearing in his rotator cuff.
The typical recovery period for such injuries is eight to 10 months.
"We're hoping to have him back by the spring," manager Ned Yost said. "We can get him through spring training, we hope, and have him ready for opening day."
The injury means the Royals will close the season with Pena and rookie Lucas May splitting the catching duties. May was recalled Wednesday from Triple-A Omaha.