09/03/2003 11:48 PM ET
Rookie Gobble tosses Royal gem
Kansas City makes three-run fourth inning stand up
By Alan Eskew / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Somehow, someway the Royals have avoided a long losing streak this season.
Four games has been their longest skid, although the staff lacks a true stopper and manager Tony Peña has used 14 starters this season.
The Royals sent Jimmy Gobble to the mound Wednesday night to not only end a
the club's recent skid, but to keep the team from falling further behind the
White Sox and
Twins in the tight
American League Central race. Gobble gave the Royals a solid performance
over seven innings as KC beat the Rangers, 3-1, on Wednesday night.Gobble, who had allowed 25 hits and 18 runs in 13 1/3 innings in losing his previous three starts,
wobbled in the first inning, but gradually improved as the night went along.
The left-hander yielded a home run to Michael Young to start the Rangers' first, but that was all he allowed. Gobble threw seven strong innings, his longest outing, and limited the Rangers' to four hits.
"We've got a young guy, Jimmy Gobble, going for us and they got John Thomson,
their stud who has been their hottest pitcher, going," said Royals slugger Mike
Sweeney. "I thought the odds were definitely against us on paper."
Then Gobble opens the game by giving up a home run.
"I was hoping he'd collect himself and go back to pitching well after that and he did exactly that," Sweeney said. "He showed a lot of poise. After he gave up the home run to Young to lead off the game, then he shuts down a very potent Texas offense for seven innings. That's tough to do."
So what was Gobble thinking after Young's home run?
"Get the next three guys out," he said. "They've got (Hank) Blalock, A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) and (Rafael) Palmeiro coming up. They can do the same thing if you don't make quality pitches."
The victory, coupled with a White Sox loss to the Red Sox, moved the Royals within one game of Chicago and Minnesota, who are tied for first
place in the AL Central. The Twins beat the Angels, 6-5, to gain a share of first.
"We take a lot of punches and continue to take punches, but they haven't knocked us down yet," Peña said of his feisty team. "We're still alive."
The Rangers, who scored 15 runs in winning the first two games of the series, have a powerful offense, leading the American League with 211 home runs and ranking second with a .460 slugging percentage.
Gobble, however, did not allow the Rangers a hit after Mark Teixeira's fourth-inning single. He retired the final seven batters he faced and 10 of
the last 11. Gobble worked ahead in the count, throwing 19 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced.
"Coming in, I didn't try to put a lot of emphasis on how big a game it was," Gobble said. "I was making sure I did my job to keep us in the game, where
we had a chance to win. Thomson was working quickly. He pitched a good game. I tried to match it and not have a big inning."
Catcher Brent Mayne said Gobble seemed calmer before the game.
"I was," Gobble said. "I was trying not to be somebody I'm not. I'm not a power pitcher. I've got to hit locations. That's what I went out trying to do. I mixed up my pitches. I threw a lot of curveballs and changeups. I had good location on my fastball, which is what you want."
Gobble struck out six and got Rodriguez, who leads the AL with 40 home runs, twice and Blalock, who has 25 home runs, twice. Blalock looked at a called third strike with two men on base in the third.
Thomson, who was 5-1 over his previous eight starts, retired the first nine batters he faced and gave up just four hits in seven innings.
The Royals bunched three hits in a three-run fourth, which Aaron Guiel opened with a double to right. Joe Randa extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a run-producing single to tie the game at 1-1.
Sweeney then hit a rare triple -- only his fourth in the majors -- to bring home Randa. Sweeney, who needs two hits to reach 1,000, went 13-for-25 with 11 RBIs against the Rangers this year. Carlos Beltran's groundout to second base scored Sweeney with the final run.
"This game was very important," Peña said. "We had lost four games before, but those last four games were tough losses."
Peña removed Gobble after he threw 102 pitches, 66 for strikes. Curtis Leskanic worked a scoreless eighth, while Mike MacDougal gave up a pair of two-out ninth-inning singles, but picked up his 27th save in 35 opportunities.
"It's a situation I like being in," MacDougal said. "It makes it fun."
Alan Eskew is a contributing writer for MLB.com. This story was not
subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.