ARLINGTON, Texas — The choice, to use the cliche, was between a rock and a hard place Saturday night for Royals manager Ned Yost when the Texas Rangers began using Sean O'Sullivan for target practice.
Should Yost dig again into his over-taxed bullpen, with the Royals roughly midway through a stretch of 27 games in 28 days, or stick with O'Sullivan in hopes that his starter steadies while eating some innings in a game already out of hand?
Yost chose to save his bullpen. O'Sullivan pitched into the sixth but never found a comfort zone. And the Royals absorbed a 10-1 thrashing at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"When you fall behind like that early," Yost said, "your (best) option is to let your pitcher take a beating. If we could come back right there, get some runs and get close, then, yeah, you start doing things differently."
And, oh, did O'Sullivan take a beating — 10 runs and 15 hits in 2/3nightmarish innings. The Rangers clubbed five no-doubt homers, including three in a row in a five-pitch sequence in the second inning.
"It was about as fun as it looked," he said. "I tried to get as many outs as I could knowing how deep our bullpen has had to go recently."
Texas scored twice in the first inning, got those three straight homers to start the second, got another homer to start the third, added a run in the fifth before concluding their mugging with a three-run sixth.
O'Sullivan (2-4) offered to stick it out even longer when Yost came to the mound after Nelson Cruz's two-run bomb with two outs in the sixth.
"I told him," O'Sullivan said, "'I'll get this last one if you need me to so we can save some bullets.' I didn't know he'd already made the move. I was trying to talk him into letting me at least get one more (out)."
Yost chose to call on Tim Collins, who worked the final 2 1/3 innings, which likely makes him unavailable for this afternoon's series finale.
" (O'Sullivan) knew going in," Yost said, "that he was going to have try to go deep in the game and get us as far as he could. His best feature tonight was he competed."
Not much else went right.
Texas starter Matt Harrison, in contrast, breezed through six shutout innings before a finger blister forced his departure. He allowed five hits, all singles.
Yoshinori Tateyama permitted a run in the seventh, after the Royals loaded the bases with no outs, before closing out the victory. By pitching three innings, he qualified for his first career save.
The five homers: Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli and Endy Chavez went back-to-back-to-back to open the second inning. Adrian Beltre, who had a two-run double in the first inning, led off the third with a boomer.
Cruz's homer came on O'Sullivan's final pitch in the sixth.
"His stuff was flat at times," Yost said. "At times, he'd make adjustments and get downhill (on his delivery). Then he'd get one flat, and they'd hit it. Consistency was his main problem."
It was O'Sullivan's third straight rocky outing, which he attributes to a slight case of biceps tendinitis — an ailment he said surfaces "once or twice every year" and zaps his strength.
"The start before," he said, "it started grabbing me a little bit. But on this one, my full range of motion (was affected). I couldn't get much behind the ball. It made it difficult to pitch with a fastball when you don't have much of a fastball.
"It's never anything that sticks with me. I pitch through it one or two times, and then it goes away. I'm pretty sure I'm on the tail side of it."
If not, the Royals could be looking for another starter after watching O'Sullivan allow 23 earned runs and 31 hits in 14 2/3 innings over his last three starts. His ERA, which stood at 3.79 three starts ago, is now at 6.75.
The problem, for Yost and the Royals, is the entire rotation is hemorrhaging runs in recent games.
* Luke Hochevar gave up eight runs in the fourth inning Wednesday in a 9-2 loss at Baltimore.
* Jeff Francis gave up five runs in the first three innings Thursday in a 6-5 loss at Baltimore in 12 innings.
* Nate Adcock gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings Friday in a 17-7 victory at Texas in 14 innings.
Those two extra-inning games also drained 15 2/3 innings from the bullpen. With no open date in the Royals' schedule until June 13, O'Sullivan understood he had to endure whatever Texas could inflict — at least until he neared the 100-pitch limit.
"Shoot," he said, "I'd have finished it if (Yost) had kept running me back out there."