Arlington, Texas — Brayan Pena didn’t want to talk about another homer in Texas. The Kansas City Royals’ catcher had the game’s final play still fresh in his mind.
Mike Napoli slid under Pena’s tag for the winning run to cap the Rangers’ 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Royals on Sunday.
Pena continued to thrive at the plate in Texas with a three-run homer in a five-run fourth. All three of his home runs this season have been three-run drives, all on the road against the Rangers.
But, as Pena would later say, “It doesn’t mean much right now.”
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, Elvis Andrus singled to right. Napoli steamed around second, and third base coach Dave Anderson waved Napoli home. Although first baseman Eric Hosmer’s relay throw to the plate was in plenty of time, it was high and Napoli was clearly safe.
Pena backed away from the plate on the throw, then slammed the ball down after Napoli was called safe. Later, he admitted he should have done a better job on the 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.”
Royals manager Ned Yost was a major league catcher, and Yost said Pena did not block the plate as well as he should have.
“Bryan was in perfect position behind the plate,” Yost said. “He stepped behind the plate and stood up and applied the tag in the chest.”
Pena’s gaffe wasn’t the only issue that concerned Yost. The Royals have lost seven of eight and 12 of 15, and Soria hasn’t had a save since May 20.
Yost remains supportive of Soria, however.
“With Jak’s track record and ability, he’ll figure it out,” Yost said. “I’m not going to deny it’s a struggle right now. He’s struggling with his command. Struggled with his fastball. I’ve been through this five or six times.
“The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is to start messing around with the bullpen. Jak will figure it out. You know why? Because he’s a good pitcher, an All-Star caliber guy,” Yost added. “That doesn’t happen by accident. Guys go through streaks.”
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.
Kansas City 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.