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Royals keep pace in wild-card chase

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alcides Escobar seldom walks. He has a.264 on-base percentage with only 19 walks in 617 plate appearances.

Escobar, however, drew the biggest walk of the Kansas City Royals' season on Friday night.

Escobar's four-pitch walk against Neftali Feliz with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning gave the Royals a 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers, who have lost 14 of 18 September games, dropped a half-game behind Cleveland and Tampa Bay in the wild-card standings. The Royals inched to 2 1/2 games back with nine games remaining.

"I'm not worried about Cleveland," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We've got to worry about winning ballgames."

Royals manager Ned Yost said he had "zero" thoughts about pinch hitting for Escobar with the bases loaded.

"Escobar in the last two weeks has been as locked in as anybody we've got," Yost said. "Both Pedro (Grifol, hitting coach) and I looked at each other and had the utmost confidence that he would get it done, and he did."

After Jason Fraser struck out the first two Kansas City batters in the eighth, Lorenzo Cain bounced a single up the middle and moved to third when Mike Moustakas dunked a single just over the infield into left field. Fraser, who took the loss, walked pinch-hitter David Lough to load the bases and was removed.

"It certainly started out good, a couple of base hits and then it gets interesting," Frasor said. "It stinks when you get taken out and you've got to rely on someone else. It's hard to sit there and watch. It's a tough spot for Neftali."

Neftali Feliz was summoned to face Escobar and walked him on four pitches to bring home Cain.

"The best part of the game was D-Lough," Escobar said. "He had the best at-bat in the eighth. He fouled off five or six pitches and then they bring in Feliz. Let's see what he has. I wanted to see a strike and then I put the ball in play and I saw four balls.

"He just came from the DL. He was throwing 99, now he throws 92, 94. I wanted to see how he throws before I swing the bat."

He didn't have to swing; none of Feliz's four fastballs were close to the strike zone.

"I'm frustrated that I wasn't able to locate where I wanted to, but I understand that's part of the game," Feliz said through an interpreter. "But I need to keep my head up and try it again tomorrow."

Luke Hochevar (5-2) picked up the victory, retiring both batters he faced. Greg Holland worked a flawless ninth for his 44th save in 47 chances.

Rangers rookie left-hander Martin Perez, who reeled off six straight victories from Aug. 5 to Sept. 3, limited the Royals to one run and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings but had to settle for a no-decision.

Neal Cotts replaced Perez and worked 1 1/3 perfect innings, running his scoreless streak to 12 2/3 innings.

Royals right-hander Ervin Santana was pulled after 7 1/3 innings, his longest outing since July 24, allowing one run and five hits while striking out four and walking one.

Adrian Beltre, who entered the game with a .374 batting average at Kauffman Stadium, singled leading off the Rangers' second and scored on A.J. Pierzynski's double off the center field fence. Pierzynski has driven in 76 runs in games at Kansas City.

The Royals tied it in the bottom of the inning when Justin Maxwell's two-out double scored Salvador Perez. Maxwell has 13 RBIs in 27 games with the Royals, who acquired him in a July 31 trade with the Astros.

Billy Butler grounded into his American League-leading 25th double play to end the Royals' first after Emilio Bonifacio and Eric Hosmer had stroked back-to-back singles.

Perez walked Moustakas and Maxwell with two outs in the fourth but got out of the inning when Escobar flied out to Leonys Martin in right center.

Santana retired the next 11 batters after Pierzynski's RBI double before David Murphy's double into the right-field corner and Martin's broken-bat infield single with two outs in the fifth. Santana had Ian Kinsler down in the count 0-2 before walking him to load the bases. Santana recovered to strike out Elvis Andrus.

NOTES: RHP Joakim Soria, who ranks third on the Royals' career list with 160 saves, made his first trip to Kauffman Stadium as a visitor. He signed with the Rangers after missing last season, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. ... It was a homecoming for Rangers RHP Nick Tepesch, who went to Blue Springs (Mo.) High, a Kansas City suburb, and the University of Missouri. ... The Royals' bullpen has allowed just four runs in 51 1/3 innings in the 18 victories of RHP Jeremy Guthrie's 31 starts. Guthrie goes for his 15th victory on Saturday against the Rangers. ... Mike Jirschele, who managed Omaha to the Triple-A championship, is scheduled to join the Royals' staff for the final nine games. Clubs are allowed to add one on-field coach in September.
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