KANSAS CITY -- The Royals kept coming, but they just couldn't quite get there.
When the dust cleared on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, the Texas Rangers had held on for a 7-6 victory, boosting their lead over Oakland to five games in the American League West.
The Rangers led from the moment that Adrian Beltre belted a three-run homer in the first inning, but the Royals just wouldn't go away.
"They never do," said Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who survived a ninth-inning uprising. "I've seen these guys time and time again, and they're a scrappy bunch. They figure out a way to scratch and claw, it seems like every time ... especially in this park. It's always been a close game. I've seen these guys a bunch when I was with the Twins, and it's no different now. They find a way to make games out of everything."
Down 7-5 going into the ninth, Johnny Giavotella got a one-out single off Nathan, but was forced at second on David Lough's grounder. Lough had to leave the game with a strained hamstring, and pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson took off from first base and just kept going to the plate when Alcides Escobar singled.
The Royals were one run away.
"These guys are always tough," Nathan said. "This year, even when you think you've got them where you want them, they put a guy like Dyson on first and he scores on a single. He can absolutely fly. I was watching him run the bases, and I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me. That's just illegal.' It's always tough, always fun playing these guys but always a battle."
Nathan got Alex Gordon to fly out to end the game, getting his 29th save.
Old pro pitcher Ryan Dempster emerged with his fifth victory in seven starts since the Rangers obtained him from the Chicago Cubs at the Trade Deadline.
"We played catch-up all night," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "When we'd get close, they'd tack on. We just really couldn't do much with Dempster. [He] located his pitches extremely well, really worked at the knees on both corners in and out."
Dempster gave up just two runs on four hits in his six innings with eight strikeouts.
Everett Teaford, pressed into a spot start for the Royals because of last Saturday's doubleheader, had a rocky first inning. Ian Kinsler opened the game with a single, Josh Hamilton drew a one-out walk and Beltre bashed a three-run homer over the left-field wall.
"Beltre's a great hitter and when you leave a ball up over like that, you normally have to get a new baseball," Teaford said.
The Royals got a run back in their half on Billy Butler's RBI double. It was the first of three doubles for Butler, who has a seven-game hitting streak (12-for-27, .444).
"I'm just being myself, just going up there, if it's out over the plate I'm squaring it up. Basically that's all I'm doing," he said.
It was the fifth time in his career that Butler has had three doubles in one game. He and Salvador Perez had back-to-back doubles in the sixth inning off Dempster that cut his lead to 3-2.
But the Rangers came back with three runs in the seventh, an inning launched by Michael Young's home run off Vin Mazzaro. Two more runs followed but more damage was averted by Gordon's acrobatic catch of Kinsler's drive to left field.
"I made it look really hard," Gordon said. "I probably could've stood on the warning track and caught it. ... The thing was, the infield was playing in, then the outfield comes in shallow so when he hit it, I knew I had a lot of room to make up. I looked up, thought it was gone, climbed the fence and realized it wasn't. But it landed in my glove somehow."
In short, Gordon had to un-climb the fence in a big hurry in order to make a twisting, turning catch.
When that was over, the Rangers were up 6-2 but the Royals kept pecking away. What turned out to be the deciding run came in the Rangers' seventh when Beltre tripled off Jeremy Jeffress and scored on Nelson Cruz's single.
Beltre has hit safely in all eight games against the Royals this season at a .355 (11-for-31) clip.
"You can't make mistakes to him," Yost said. "If you're going get him out, you've got to do it down. ... You can't throw anything down the middle, because he's going to hit it a long way."
Yet the Royals kept the 13,354 fans in suspense, chasing after Beltre and his buddies.
"We did a good job of continuing to fight and stay after it," Yost said. "We still got to the end of the game one swing away from winning it."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.