KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Nick Tepesch grew up close enough to Kauffman Stadium that he drove past it plenty of times as a kid. His high school team even played in the ballpark, though he had never taken the mound.
That is until Wednesday night.
Tepesch had a memorable outing for the Texas Rangers, even if the result wasn’t exactly what he hoped it would be, pitching well into the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals. Tepesch just made a few too many mistakes in what turned into a 4-1 defeat.
“From the first inning I felt comfortable on the mound and good with my mechanics,” said Tepesch, who grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri. “I felt like I was making pitches.”
Just not quite enough. Tepesch (4-9) allowed all four runs over 6 2-3 innings.
“I felt he did a good job of keeping us in the ball game,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We just haven’t been able to put enough runs on the board.”
That problem manifested itself again Wednesday night. The Rangers were 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position, making them 3 for 28 over the course of the series.
That was more than enough to doom Texas to its fifth straight loss.
“We put ourselves in position,” Washington said. “It wasn’t just one part of the lineup. It was up and down. It was almost everybody had an opportunity.”
Jason Vargas (11-7) stranded four runners in scoring position before turning over a two-on, two-out mess to Kelvin Herrera, who escaped the jam. Louis Coleman gave up a run in the eighth before Wade Davis finished it off, and Greg Holland worked a perfect ninth for his 42nd save.
The sweep of Texas was the first at home for the Royals in seven seasons.
“I guess momentum is nice,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “but I don’t believe in that stuff too much. You know we have to go play good baseball. We have to do what we do.”
The Royals grabbed the lead in the fourth when Omar Infante led off with a single and Alex Gordon homered to deep center. In the seventh, Salvador Perez and Billy Butler doubled to provide a bit of cushion, and pinch runner Terrance Gore scored on a stolen base and a throwing error.
The victory along with Detroit’s 7-0 loss to Cleveland allowed the Royals to extend their lead to 1 1/2 games over the Tigers in the AL Central. They are off Thursday before a crucial trip that takes them through the wild card-chasing Yankees and into a three-game set in Detroit.
“Just have to keep it going,” Vargas said.
The veteran left-hander, winless in his last six starts against Texas left runners on the corners in the first inning, and somehow navigated leadoff doubles in the third, fourth and sixth.
By the time he trudged off the mound on a humid night at Kauffman Stadium, a small but festive crowd of 15,771 had risen to its feet to give him a parting ovation.
“He pitched great,” Yost said. “He was sharp tonight. Had his good command, spotted his fastball well. His changeup was really working for him. He just pitched a good game.”
BELTRE IN BEAST MODE: Adrian Beltre went 1 for 4, extending his hit streak to 20 games against Kansas City. Ivan Rodriguez holds the club record with a hit in 23 straight games against the Royals.
ROYALS C-RISP-Y: While the Rangers had all kinds of problems with runners in scoring position, the Royals were a bit better — 1 for 4. They only left one on base, the fewest they’ve stranded since June 21.
BIG HOME RUNS: Gordon has hit 19 homers this season, 10 of which have given the Royals the lead.
TRAINER’S ROOM: RHP Scott Baker has been scratched from his start Thursday against Seattle with a stiff neck. Washington hopes he’ll be able to go Friday. … RHP Yu Darvish (elbow inflammation) will be examined Thursday in Texas. It remains unlikely he’ll return his season.
UP NEXT: LHP Robbie Ross (2-5, 5.63) will move up one day to start in Baker’s place. Ross tossed five shutout innings against Houston his last time out.
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