They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and you can add the Royals pitchers ERA to that.
Coming into this game, Jeff Francis was this year’s leading candidate for loveable loser. In his first four starts of the season, each was a quality start, but all he had to show for it was an 0-1 record and a 3.00 ERA. This was going to be the night that the stars aligned and Mr. Francis got his first win in a Royals uniform.
The Texas Rangers did not get that memo.
Since 2008, the Rangers have beaten the Royals 17 out of 25 games. Last year, the Rangers won 7 out of 9, including all four played in Arlington. Yet, tonight there was no Vladimir Guerrero in the Rangers dugout. Slugger Josh Hamilton is on the disabled list with a broken arm. Two potential crises averted.
The Rangers started 2011 winning nine of 10, but coming into tonight, the Rangers had lost each of their last three series and had lost six of their last eight games. After the heroics of the night before, all of this seemed like a good formula for the Royals to get over the hump against the defending A.L. Champs.
Things got off to a good start for the Royals as the middle of the Ranger infield made two errors in the top of the first, but Starting Pitcher Derek Holland got out of it by striking out Billy Butler. The Royals followed suit by making an error on an Ian Kinsler ground ball in the bottom of the first. Francis did not escape as easily though, giving up two hits in the inning and allowing an unearned run.
After a quick second, the Rangers exploded in the third – scoring four runs on four extra base hits. DH Mike Napoli hit the first home run off of a Royals pitcher since April 10th. 95 innings without a home run – pretty impressive stuff.
In past years, being down 5-0 after three innings would have made Royals viewers roll their eyes and flip over to check out the NBA playoffs. This year’s club, though, has shown over and over again that they’re not afraid to play from behind. They proved this by pounding out four hits in the top of the fourth, capped by a three-run home run by Brayan Pena – his first of the year which broke an 0-12 slump.
In the inning, the three Royals carrying double-digit hitting streaks all extended them. Alex Gordon singled to extend his streak to 16 games, then Jeff Franceour singled to extend his streak to 12 games, and not to be outdone, Wilson Betemit singled to extend his streak to 13 games. Not since 2001 have the Royals had three players with double-digit hitting streaks (Mike Sweeney, Rey Sanchez, Joe Randa). Gordon was again impressive, going 2-4 but reaching base four times in the game.
After the tremendous and sudden comeback by the Royals, Jeff Francis now had a fresh start. He got two quick outs in the bottom of the 4th. Then Kinsler pounded a solo home run to center field to give the Rangers the lead again. Two more hits in the inning gave the Rangers nine before he got Adrian Beltre to pop out to end the inning.
From that point forward, the Royals lost their ability to come back & only managed three hits the rest of the way. The Rangers were far from being done adding to their lead. They hit home runs in each of the next three innings for a grand total of five (in five consecutive innings) which produced eight runs. The still inexperienced Royals bullpen was disappointing as well, except for a solid eighth inning of work by Jeremy Jeffress.
It was a rough night for the Royals and although it was the aim of the pitching staff to keep the ball down and out of the gusty Texas wind, it seemed like every pitch that was left up was crushed. For the game, the Rangers had 15 hits, nine of them being for extra bases.