KANSAS CITY -- Greg Holland started to run as soon as his feet touched grass. On his third consecutive day of work, in his 58th appearance this season, Holland headed to the rain-soaked Kauffman Stadium mound on Monday capable of both atoning for his performance the previous night and snapping his team's losing skid.
Tasked with protecting a one-run lead, Holland performed like the two-time All-Star he become. He struck out a pair of Rangers to secure a 4-3 Royals victory before rain could interfere with yet another outing. The grounds crew unfurled the tarp within seconds of the final out.
The night before, Holland allowed multiple runs in a game for just the third time this season. His defense failed to support him, and he responded by yielding a two-run double to the Indians that could cost the Royals. A late-night storm suspended the contest. The team won't know the final result until the last of the 10th inning is played on Sept. 22 in Cleveland.
But on Monday, the club recovered from the sting and picked up just their third victory in eight games. The game featured a bit of unnecessary tension, but such is the way of this first-place ballclub (75-61).
Salvador Perez paced the offense in the early going. He smacked an RBI single in the first and two-run homer in the third. Both times he plated Alex Gordon. But the offense soon sagged. Texas caught up with rookie Yordano Ventura in the sixth and seventh, tagging him for three runs and slicing into the Royals' advantage. Kelvin Herrera induced a double-play to allow Kansas City to escape the seventh still ahead.
A limping club required an infusion of energy on Monday. The opponent helped. The Rangers are baseball's worst team, a moribund club terrorized by pitching injuries. On Monday they offered up Colby Lewis, a surgically-reconstructed right-hander who is languishing through his roughest big-league campaign since 2007.
Gordon singled up the middle with two outs in the first. He stole second on the next pitch. Perez followed up by whacking a slider for an RBI double.
The pair reconvened for the third. Gordon took a two-out walk. Lewis fired over to first twice. He missed the strike zone twice. At last he tried to stuff a fastball on Perez's front hip. Instead the ball caught plenty of plate, and even more of Perez's lumber. His 16th homer of the season zipped into the Royals bullpen in left.
The date on the calendar also provided some aid. The rosters expanded for the start of the September, and an element of vibrancy returned to the clubhouse.
The additions enlivened the atmosphere. James Shields advised Brandon Finnegan, the club's first-round pick in June, on how to handle throngs of reporters. The newcomers debated the speed of Jarrod Dyson versus that of Terrance Gore, who will join the team as a pinch-running specialist on Tuesday. A pair of relievers gawked at the size of 6-foot-5, 250-pound outfielder Carlos Peguero.
Peguero received a ride on a golf cart from the players' parking lot to the clubhouse around 2:30 p.m. on Monday. He walked into the clubhouse to find his name in a big-league lineup for the first time since April 27, 2013. He smashed 15 homers in August for Class AAA Omaha, and Yost looked desperate for an infusion of power after four arid nights.
"We've got to have some offense here," Yost said. "If we get some offense, we're going to do some real damage. I mean, all four of those games, if we had any speck of offense, we'd have won all four of those."
A couple weeks ago, Peguero completed a feat fit for cliche. The term "light-tower power" is attached to prodigious power hitters like Peguero. One night at the park, he pulled a hanging curveball down the right-field line. The ball collided with the light fixture, Peguero said.
"The guys were shocked when I did that," he said. "That was the first time I did that."
Peguero relies on pulling the baseball into right field. So his first hit as a Royal surprised the Texas defenders. Lewis dotted the outside corner with a fastball. Peguero muscled it for an opposite-field double to left. He scored his team's fourth run when Mike Moustakas punched a single through the left side of the infield.
The Royals had scored two runs or fewer in five of their previous seven games. Ventura had a sizable lead to protect.
He sat out his last start because of soreness in his back. The team declared the injury a minor one. It still raised questions about his durability during his first, full big-league season.
His performance appeared to answer any queries about his condition. His fastball registered at 101 mph twice in the first inning. He didn't give up a hit until the fourth inning. The Rangers couldn't scratch across a run until the sixth.
Ventura can blame himself for Texas' tally. After a double by shortstop Elvis Andrus, Ventura issued his third walk of the day. Both Andrus and Alex Rios moved 90 feet when Ventura threaded a fastball through Perez's legs. The wild pitch put Andrus in position to score on a groundout by Adrian Beltre.
Ventura continued to stumble in the seventh. Adam Rosales, the Rangers first baseman, roped a leadoff double. Catcher Tomas Telis chipped a single into center field, where Jarrod Dyson fumbled with the baseball until a run had scored and Telis stood at second. Two batters later, outfielder Michael Choice slipped an RBI single past the dive of Alcides Escobar.
The ball trickled into left. The lead slipped to one. Ventura slapped his glove in disgust. The Royals prepared for yet another night of Kauffman Stadium anxiety.
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