ARLINGTON (AP) – Speed isn’t part of Mike Napoli’s game. Still, the Texas Rangers catcher was fast enough to score from first on Elvis Andrus’ ninth-inning single.
Napoli slid under the catcher’s tag for the winning run to cap the Rangers’ 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
Nelson Cruz led off the ninth with a tying home run off closer Joakim Soria (3-2), who had his fourth blown save in 11 chances.
Napoli, who homered in the fifth and went 3 for 4, followed with a single. Two outs later, Andrus singled to right. Napoli steamed around second, and third base coach Dave Anderson waved him home. Although first baseman Eric Hosmer’s relay throw to the plate was in plenty of time, it was high and Napoli slid under Brayan Pena’s tag.
“I was surprised Dave waved me around,” Napoli said. “Good play. You’ve got to try to make something happen and something good did happen. I was running hard and didn’t break stride. I kept going and I was safe.”
Pena backed away from the plate on the throw, then slammed the ball down after Napoli was called safe.
Later, Pena admitted he should have done a better job on the decisive play.
“I thought I had home plate blocked, but I guess not,” Pena said. “When I was ready to tag him, I thought he was closer to me. I feel terrible about it. It was a mistake. It was perfect, a great relay. I thought I had him. But when I saw the replay, I could tell he was safe.”
Napoli’s teammates got a kick out of his mad dash around the bases.
“If you would have told me before the game (that Napoli would score from first on a single), I wouldn’t have believed you,” Andrus said. “We know he’s not a fast guy, but he’s a smart guy. That was an aggressive play and he was definitely safe.”
Arthur Rhodes (3-2) retired one batter in the ninth for the win.
With the game tied at 5, Chris Getz led off the ninth against Neftali Feliz with a double. The ball eluded right fielder Cruz for an error, allowing Getz to take third, and Getz scored on Alcides Escobar’s sac fly to left for the lead.
The Royals carried a 5-3 lead into the eighth, but Michael Young’s two-out, two-run homer into the right field seats on Aaron Crow’s 3-0 pitch pulled the Rangers even.
After crossing the plate, Young smiled and pointed toward former President George W. Bush in box seats to the left of the Texas dugout. Bush lifted his cap in acknowledgment.
Bush lives in the Dallas area and attends several Rangers games each season.
“We’ve talked a lot through the years,” Young said. “I’ve had the chance to meet him several times because he comes to a lot of games. We’ve always had good conversations. It got me fired up. That was pretty cool … pretty sweet.”
Pena continued to thrive at the plate in Texas, hitting another homer. All three of his homers this season have been three-run drives, all on the road against the Rangers.
Royals rookie Danny Duffy allowed three runs and five hits in six-plus innings in his third big league start. The left-hander struck out four and exited after issuing his first walk of the day to Adrian Beltre leading off the seventh.
Young’s homer saved Texas’ Alexi Ogando from his first defeat as a starter– he is 5-0.
Ogando yielded only one hit in the first four innings, but lost command in the fourth when the Royals scored five times.
The converted reliever gave up five runs and seven hits in six innings with four strikeouts and one walk in his 10th big league start.
Ian Kinsler homered for the Rangers, but was ejected in the fifth by home plate umpire Mike Estabrook for tossing his bat after a called third strike. Kinsler’s exit meant that shortstop Andres Blanco moved to second, and Andrus entered the game at shortstop.
Young led off the second with a double and scored on Napoli’s two-out double.
Kinsler’s one-out bases-empty homer in the third — his seventh — made it 2-0.
The Royals answered with their five-run fourth as Wilson Betemit and Mitch Maier delivered consecutive RBI singles, and Pena followed with a towering upper-deck drive to right on an 0-1 pitch.
Pena also hit a three-run shot in the 14th inning of Friday night’s 12-7 win over Texas.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)