KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alcides Escobar drew a four-pitch walk with two out and the bases loaded in the eighth inning as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Texas Rangers 2-1 on Friday night.
The Rangers, who have lost 14 of 18 September games, dropped a half-game behind Cleveland in the wild-card standings. The Royals inched to 2 1/2 games back with nine games remaining.
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. Netali Feliz was summoned to face Escobar and walked him on four pitches to bring home Cain. It was only Escobar's 19th walk in more than 600 plate appearances.
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. He walked four, struck out three and hit a batter.
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. Santana is 1-3 with five no-decisions in his past nine starts.
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 Leonys Martin's broken-bat infield single with two out 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.
The Royals got two runners on with two out in the fifth with singles by Hosmer and Butler, but Perez's grounder to third ended the inning with the score still tied at 1.
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.