KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It's about time some of the blue-wave magic returned to Kauffman Stadium, isn't it? The Royals were one out away from a sixth straight loss Thursday night before rousing themselves for a 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in 10 innings.
First, Mike Aviles battled through an 11-pitch at-bat with Rangers closer Neftali Feliz before delivering a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning.
The game-winner came in the 10th inning when Jeff Francoeur capped a nine-pitch at-bat against Cody Eppley by pumping a walk-off single into center field.
Francoeur's single halted that skid at five and provided the Royals with their seventh walk-off victory of the season. It came after the Royals put runners at first and second on successive one-out singles by Melky Cabrera and Eric Hosmer against Darren Oliver.
Cabrera pulled a single into left and raced to third when Eric Hosmer followed by lining a first-pitch single into right. Eppley replaced Oliver, 1-5, and surrendered the game-winner.
Reliever Greg Holland, recalled earlier in the day, got his first major-league victory by retiring four straight hitters after replacing Luke Hochevar with two on and two outs in the ninth inning.
It was an amazing comeback that surfaced, really, out of nowhere.
Texas lefty Derek Holland carried a shutout into the ninth inning before departing after Hosmer's leadoff single. In came Feliz, who blew a save Wednesday in the ninth before the Rangers won 5-4 in 11 innings.
Feliz surrendered a single by Francoeur to right that moved Hosmer to second before retiring Billy Butler on a fly to center and Wilson Betemit on a pop to short. A wild pitch with Aviles batting moved the runners to second and third.
It also brought the crowd of 12,355 to its feet.
Aviles' battled with Feliz included five fouls on full-count fastballs before he hit a hopper up the middle that turned into an RBI single.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus made a nice play to keep the ball in the infield and prevent the winning run from scoring. Feliz then loaded the bases by walking Brayan Pen~a before the Rangers brought in Mark Lowe.
The Royals left the bases loaded when Alcides Escobar hit a soft hopper back to the mound for the final out.
But that enabled Hochevar to escape with a no-decision after his best start of the season. He allowed just six hits in 8 2/3 innings, but one of those hits was a leadoff homer by Chris Davis in the second inning.
That was the only run until the ninth.
Derek Holland settled for a no-decision after scattering nine hits in eight-plus innings. Feliz had not blown a save this season before Wednesday. Now, he's blown two in a row.
The victory pulled the Royals back to within one game of .500 at 21-22 as they head into this weekend's I-70 Series renewal against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Not much went right before the ninth. For example:
Matt Treanor opened the eighth inning with a walk before Mitch Maier entered the game as a pinch runner. Now, Maier is faster than Treanor but pales in comparison — who doesn't? —to Jarrod Dyson.
Problem: The Royals optioned Dyson earlier in the day to Triple-A Omaha because they needed an extra reliever — Greg Holland — after burning through their bullpen over the last few days.
So what happens?
Escobar attempts a sacrifice, but bunts the ball too hard to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who turned the play into a force at second. Moreland most likely takes the out at first if Dyson is running. The inning fizzled from there.
It's been like that, pretty much, since an 11-5 victory over the Yankees a week earlier. The Royals had scored just nine runs in five-plus games before the ninth inning, The Royals let Derek Holland work around two singles in the first inning before Hochevar served up Davis' leadoff homer in the second — a 381-foot drive into the right-field bullpen.
It was the 13th homer surrendered this season by Hochevar, which ties Armando Galarraga for the most in the majors. Galarraga was designated for assignment Wednesday by Arizona.
The Royals threatened again in the third inning when an error and a single put runners at first and second with two outs, but Holland struck out Hosmer.
Holland nursed his shutout through two more singles in the sixth inning when the Royals ran themselves into two outs on the bases.
First, Cabrera tried to steal second after leading off the inning with an infield single. Holland sniffed it out, and result was a pitcher-first-short caught stealing.
Francoeur then blooped a two-out single to right and tried for second when infielder Andres Blanco, who had replaced an injured Endy Chavez, bobbled the ball. Blanco recovered and made a strong throw that nailed Francoeur.
Butler led off the seventh with a line single through the middle, but Betemit followed with a double-play grounder to second.
Who knew it was all just setting the stage for another walk-off victory?