Royals burned by Rangers' homers
KC unable to overcome early deficit in home loss
KANSAS CITY -- It's those Texas bushwhackers again.
And it was Vladimir Guerrero leading the ambush once more, pounding two homers and a double to drive in five runs, as the Rangers beat the Royals for the fifth consecutive time, 8-7, on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
These are the same Rangers that laid the groundwork for Trey Hillman's dismissal as manager with a four-game sweep at Texas. Now they've dealt new manager Ned Yost a third straight loss for the first time in his tenure.
"It was real similar to the first game down at their place where they jumped out to a lead and we kept battling back. We kept coming, we just didn't quite score enough runs," said the Royals' Willie Bloomquist, who had a superb game.
Yup, in that first game at Texas the Royals charged from behind only to lose, 13-12. This time they came back from a 6-2 deficit, but dropped a one-run decision.
Royals starter Gil Meche was drilled for four homers which accounted for all six runs against him in his six innings. There were Guerrero's two blasts and back-to-back solo shots by Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz.
"I'll be honest, I made it pretty easy," Meche said. "I didn't throw but maybe four curveballs out of 25 for strikes. That put me in bad counts. And the pitches that they hit were right over the plate."
Hamilton's cannon shot to center field hit the base of the CrownVision scoreboard some 448 feet from the plate. In fact, the four homers given up by Meche had a grand total of 1,671 feet of distance.
"He only gave up five hits, unfortunately four of them were home runs," Yost said. "Every time he made a mistake to one of their big hitters, they hit it over the fence."
The home run onslaught matched the most given up in one game by Meche. The other time was on Sept. 16, 2003, when Meche was pitching for Seattle -- at Texas in a 10-5 loss. And, yes, one of the four was hit by Alex Rodriguez.
But Meche would not lose this time because the Royals came back for a 6-6 tie in a three-run sixth inning.
The big hit was a two-run triple by Bloomquist, the stand-in right fielder. His drive into the left-center-field gap came at the conclusion of an eight-pitch battle with Rangers starter Rich Harden. That ended Harden's outing.
"I was just kind of in a battle mode and I ended up getting a pitch I could handle," Bloomquist said.
With Bloomquist standing at third and Rangers reliever Darren O'Day warming up, Yost told waiting batter Jason Kendall to stay alert -- he might get a bunt sign. First, Yost wanted to study O'Day's sidewinder delivery.
"That's a guy from down under, a ground-ball guy, and Ned just said, 'Be aware,' and I was aware," Kendall said.
Sure enough, the suicide squeeze was on and Kendall dropped a perfect bunt to tie the score, 6-6.
However, in the seventh, the Rangers tagged reliever Brad Thompson with two hits. That brought rookie Blake Wood out of the bullpen. Left fielder Scott Podsednik's dive in left-center robbed Ian Kinsler of a hit, but it was a tie-breaking sacrifice fly. Guerrero followed with a double down the left-field line, netting his fifth RBI.
Wood couldn't believe Guerrero was able to make contact with the pitch.
"It was a foot inside," Wood said. "It's Vlad. He's done it a lot of times before in his career. It about hit him."
It was just something that happened, Guerrero said through a translator.
"I wasn't planning on swinging [at that pitch]," Guerrero said. "But I ended up swinging. I just had to keep my hands inside."
Guerrero this season has hit five homers against the Royals and is 8-for-18, .444, with 12 RBIs in the five games between the clubs.
"He's probably the most amazing hitter I've seen," Yost said. "You make a mistake and he hits it a mile and then you make the pitch you want -- Blake Wood threw him a pitch that was a foot inside and he still pulled it down the line for a double. How he kept that ball fair, I have no idea. He's just one of a kind."
The Royals also started their half of the seventh with a single and a double, by Mike Aviles and Billy Butler, but got just one run from the opportunity -- on Alberto Callaspo's sacrifice fly. That made it 8-7 and there it stayed.
Bloomquist kept the Rangers from padding their lead in the eighth, throwing out Justin Smoak at the plate with a laser-sharp throw to catcher Jason Kendall. Bloomquist also made a diving catch in right field on Hamilton in the first inning.
"Rusty (Kuntz, outfield coach) had me played just right, the ball hopped right to me and we can't get down another run right there with their closer coming in," Bloomquist said. "Let 'er rip and see what happens."
An earlier play at the plate eventually put Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt out of the game. He collided with catcher Matt Treanor while scoring in the third inning and was taken out with mild dizziness two innings later.
Yost, now 6-5 since taking over as manager, wasn't too dismayed after the loss.
"If you could sit in the dugout and feel the enthusiasm -- our guys are getting after it," he said. "They don't feel like they're out of the game and I love that about them -- that they have a sense that no game is over until it's over."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.