KANSAS CITY -- Manager Ron Washington had a choice in the seventh inning with two runners on base and one out.Mitch Moreland was scheduled to hit, but the Royals had left-hander Jose Mijares on the mound. Washington had the option of pinch-hitting Mike Olt, but also knew the Royals had right-hander Louis Coleman in the bullpen. He decided to stay with Moreland. "He just grinds out his at-bats," Washington said. Moreland did exactly that and came through with a three-run home run to carry the Rangers to a 5-3 victory over the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. The Rangers have now won three straight. "Mitch's blow was the big one," said Rangers starter Matt Harrison, who went 6 2/3 innings and earned his 13th win of the season. Moreland's home run gave the Rangers a 5-1 lead. The Royals got one in the seventh and one in the eighth to make it a two-run game, but Alexi Ogando set down the side in order in the ninth for his second save of the season.
Ogando was called upon because Joe Nathan was given the night off after throwing a total of 62 pitches in back-to-back outings on Wednesday and Thursday.Ogando got his work done in 16 pitches, including five that registered 100 miles per hour on the gun. He struck out two of three. "He blew them away," Washington said. "He looked calm and made his pitches. He's good in those situations because he lets it all go." Ogando's save allowed Harrison to snap a two-game losing streak. Harrison allowed two runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out three. He also forced a couple of double-play balls in crucial situations and that helped him raise his record to 13-6 with a 3.17 ERA. "I can't say enough about the work my defense did behind me," Harrison said. "It took me three innings to get going. I felt really good with the extra day of rest and I was overthrowing a little bit. I didn't figure that out until I was warming up for the fourth. After that I started making pitches and was able to get us through the seventh." Nelson Cruz's sacrifice fly gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first. The Royals loaded the bases with none out in the second on a couple hits and a walk, but Harrison got Yuniesky Betancourt to ground into a double play, allowing just one run to score.
The Rangers regained the lead in the fourth inning when Adrian Beltre led off with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on David Murphy's two-out single.That made it 2-1 and that's where it stood going into the seventh against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie. Michael Young led off with a routine grounder to shortstop Alcides Escobar, who fielded it cleanly but slipped on the outfield grass and was unable to make a throw. Mijares then took over and got Murphy to fly out. But he walked Geovany Soto, bringing up Moreland. Moreland swung and missed at the first two pitches and then fouled off three straight. "I was just fighting," Moreland said. "I was looking for an opportunity to make something happen. It was a close game to that point and I wanted to grind out the at-bat and get a good pitch to hit." That's what Washington expected. In the opposite dugout, Royals manager Ned Yost was expecting something else. "He had Moreland in the perfect spot," Yost said. "He threw him three straight fastballs with two strikes that he fouled off, fouled off, fouled off, and I'm thinking, 'OK, here comes the slider. He's going to strike him out.'" Mijares did throw a slider, but Moreland hit it into the water fountain beyond the right-field seats. It was his 11th home run of the season and first since June 15. The blow was especially impressive considering there was a strong wind blowing in from right field that had taken potential home runs away from Cruz and Josh Hamilton earlier in the game. "I hit it pretty good," Moreland said. "It was an 0-2 count and I kind of stayed nice and easy, short to the ball. That helps me in that situation." The home run was also only Moreland's third in 157 career at-bats in the regular season against a left-handed pitcher. The others were April 30 against Toronto's Evan Crawford and July 30, 2011, against Toronto's Brad Mills. He also hit one in the 2010 World Series against Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants. This one doesn't quite measure up to a World Series home run. But it was big enough for a Friday night in Kansas City.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.