KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Texas Rangers figure they’ll be just fine if they keep focusing on themselves.
That’s why the AL West leaders were lounging on black leather sofas in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, hours before playing Kansas City, and stifling laughter as they watched comedian Robin Williams do a stand-up routine on television.
Rather than watching, say, second-place Oakland’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.
“Those guys aren’t worrying about that,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “If we take care of our business, it doesn’t matter what they do.”
Well, the Rangers certainly took care of their business. Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer, Michael Young also went deep and Texas held on for a 7-6 victory over the Royals to open a five-game lead in the division after the A’s lost their matinee.
Ryan Dempster (5-1) gave up RBI doubles to Billy Butler in the first inning and Salvador Perez in the sixth, but was otherwise stingy for the Rangers. He only allowed two other hits in six sharp innings, striking out eight to win his fourth consecutive game.
“You know, I was in a situation where I was pitching for pride,” said Dempster, acquired in a July 31 trade with the Chicago Cubs.
“Now I’m just trying to do my best every fifth day.”
Beltre’s homer came off Everett Teaford (1-4), who was making his fifth start of the year. Young’s solo shot came off Vin Mazzaro during a three-run seventh.
The runs proved handy when Kansas City mounted a late comeback. Alcides Escobar’s RBI single off Joe Nathan put the potential tying run on first with two outs in the ninth, but Alex Gordon flied out to end the game. It was Nathan’s 27th consecutive save.
Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz also drove in runs to help the Rangers (81-55) move a season-high 26 games above .500, and assure a club-record fourth straight season of .500 or better.
The 28-year-old Teaford was called upon to make his first start for Kansas City since July 8, when he allowed five runs in 4 1-3 innings at Detroit. He’s been exemplary in long relief — he threw 5 1-3 scoreless innings last Saturday against Minnesota — but less effective as a starter.
That proved to be the case again Wednesday night.
Kinsler led off the game with a single, and after Andrus went down swinging, Josh Hamilton walked to put runners on first and second for the hottest hitter in the Texas lineup.
Beltre calmly waited for a 1-2 pitch from Teaford and sent it soaring over the left-field wall for a three-run homer, his 29th of the season. The ball landed just shy of the fountains.
“That’s what I’m supposed to be doing,” Beltre said demurely.
The slugging third baseman also tripled and scored in the eighth, giving him 10 homers, seven doubles and two triples since Aug. 20. Beltre has scored 15 runs and driven in 20 in that stretch.
“I saw his charts yesterday and the whole chart was like, red against lefties. It’s basically a heat map. Red would describe Kansas City in July, that kind of hot,” Teaford said. “If you make a bad pitch, he hits it real well. He’s tough. You’ve just got to hope to make good pitches.”
The Royals clawed back with runs in the first and sixth, but Texas added three in the seventh, the homer by Young starting things off. Kansas City added two more runs in the bottom half to keep it close, and the teams traded runs in the eighth before Nathan held on through a shaky ninth.
The veteran closer has 28 saves in 29 chances this season.
“We played catch-up all night, and when we’d get close they’d tack on,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The three-run seventh did us in.”
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