Royals run out of rally magic at Texas
KC erases eight-run deficit, but falls to Rangers in opener
ARLINGTON -- Not in their wildest dreams could the Royals imagine this nightmare: They come back from an eight-run deficit to go ahead and their premier closer, Joakim Soria, gives up back-to-back blasts to lose the game.
Yet, on Thursday night, it happened.
Soria, summoned to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning, gave up home runs to Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero and the Texas Rangers surged to a 13-12 stunning victory over Kansas City.
"This one hurts," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "You battle back and you take a lead from 8-0. Yeah, it stings."
So many good things by the Royals were submerged in the smoke of those final two booms: A clutch RBI single by Kila Ka'aihue that pushed the Royals ahead, 12-11, in the top of the eighth. Crucial score-tying home runs by Scott Podsednik and Alberto Callaspo. Perfect relief pitching by Robinson Tejeda. And that comeback from an 8-0 hole after the third inning.
"We can take a lot of positives from the game," Podsednik said. "Yes we came out on the losing side but we battled, we grinded, we gave them a handful."
They did that. Ka'aihue, getting his first at-bat since his recall from Triple-A Omaha, pinch-hit for Willie Bloomquist in the eighth inning. Callaspo's two-run shot had created an 11-11 tie in the seventh. Now Yuniesky Betancourt was at second base after a single and Podsednik's sacrifice bunt.
Ka'aihue got in a 0-2 hole against reliever Frank Francisco and then drilled a fastball to right field, a sizzling single that got Betancourt home. Just six outs to go.
Tejeda, who got three outs in the seventh to escape a jam, got two more in the eighth. That's when Hillman decided to call on Soria.
"I felt like it was a better matchup but unfortunately it didn't work out that way," Hillman said. "A closer well-rested, ask him to get four outs. I was even thinking about possibly, if Robby ran into trouble, asking him to get more than that. It just didn't work out."
Soria got a full count on Hamilton, who smashed a sky rocket into the upper deck for a 12-12 tie. Two pitches later, Guerrero deposited a drive in the right-field bullpen.
"I felt good, I have no excuses for that," Soria said. "It was just one of those days. That's baseball and we'll keep going."
Never before had Soria given up back-to-back homers.
"He just didn't locate, that's the bottom line," Hillman said. "He just left a couple pitches out over the plate."
Ian Kinsler followed with a double but Soria struck out David Murphy to get the elusive third out. And the Royals were out of comeback magic. Rangers closer Neftali Feliz buzzed through a one-two-three ninth inning.
"What was great about it is we got their best pitcher, and they didn't get ours," said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
There was a lot of getting pitchers all night long.
The Rangers crashed on Royals starter Kyle Davies for nine runs in four-plus innings. He was behind, 8-0, when Justin Smoak smoked a three-run homer.
"It didn't seem like any pitcher had a foothold and I was as bad as I've been all year," Davies said.
Billy Butler finally got to Rangers starter Matt Harrison with a two-run homer in the fourth.
Scrambling into a 9-9 tie, the Royals had Podsednik's three-run shot off Dustin Nippert to cap off a five-run sixth inning. But darned if Guerrero didn't respond with a two-run homer off Josh Rupe in the bottom half for an 11-9 Rangers lead.
The ball was flying at the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, where 15,132 fans were kept guessing.
Still ahead for their viewing displeasure were Callaspo's homer and Ka'aihue's single but those clutch blows didn't hold up for the Royals.
If the Royals had held on and won the game, it would have marked the second-biggest come-from-behind win in franchise history. The best was on June 15, 1979, at Milwaukee where the Royals, down by nine runs at 11-2 in the fourth inning, came back to beat the Brewers, 14-11.
"We just scrapped and we didn't give up," Ka'aihue said. "We showed them that and we're going to continue to do that. We'll finish it, we've got Jack [Soria] in the back and we're going to finish games. That's not even a question."
And when it was over, there had been seven homers, 26 hits, 25 runs and rapidly changing flashes of anguish and joy on both sides.
"Offensively, we were big all night," Podsednik said. "Unfortunately they were, too."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.