Arlington, Texas Kansas City starter Bruce Chen was changing speeds, moving pitches inside and outside.
Chen kept Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers off balance while pitching into the seventh inning for the Royals to win his second start in a row, 3-1 over the AL West leaders Monday night.
“Against that lineup, he was unbelievable,” Royals catcher Brayan Pena said. “He kept the ball down, mixed pretty good trying to make sure that the big boys didn’t hurt us. ... He did a great job with the hottest hitter on the planet.”
The Rangers were the top hitting team in the majors, and had 19 hits the previous night. Hamilton, named earlier Monday the AL player of the week for his nine homers and 18 RBIs last week, extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single and Nelson Cruz hit a massive homer.
But Hamilton, the slugger who is hitting .400 and leads the majors with 18 homers and 44 RBIs, didn’t hurt the Royals. He even lost the grip of two bats that flew into the stands while swinging against Chen (2-4).
“I think Bruce Chen faced Josh Hamilton about as good as you can face him. Two souvenirs in the stands,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.
“That was a great win right there. Bruce was just superb,” he said. “He made one mistake, and the pitch wasn’t that bad a pitch, but it was a 2-0 cutter right into Cruz’s hot zone. Besides that, he was spectacular.”
Scott Feldman (0-1) allowed two unearned runs over 42⁄3 innings in his second spot start this season.
“He certainly gave us a lot more than we expected,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “Unfortunately, the guy who made the mistake is one who doesn’t make many.”
Feldman gave up three hits, the last a two-run single by No. 9 hitter Alicides Escobar right after third baseman Adrian Beltre’s two-out throwing error in the fifth.
Jeff Francoeur led off the fifth with a single before Chris Getz, robbed of a hit two innings earlier when Beltre made a backhanded grab of a scorching liner, hit a two-out hopper to third. Beltre had plenty of time, but threw the ball wide of first base.
“I just pulled it,” Beltre explained about his second error of the season.
Getz then stole second base before Escobar’s liner up the middle made it 2-1. Center fielder Craig Gentry made a diving play on the ball, but trapped it on one hop.
Chen has won his last two starts since a four-game losing streak. The left-hander struck out seven, walked two and allowed only five hits over 6 2-3 innings.
“I just tried to make sure I threw all my pitches from all different angles so they’d be kind of off balance,” Chen said. “The first couple of innings I tried to establish what I was going to do.”
Jonathan Broxton worked the ninth for his eighth save in nine chances for the Royals, who have won 11 of 17 since their 12-game losing streak in April.
Francoeur, part of the Rangers’ first World Series team in 2010, had a leadoff walk in the seventh and scored when Pena grounded into a double play.
Hamilton’s incredible streak had overshadowed Cruz, who also had 14 hits his previous seven games. But Cruz only had one homer in that span, a grand slam in a 13-6 victory over the Angels on Sunday night that ended his 23-game homerless drought.
On Monday, Cruz pulled a ball an estimated 416 feet into the second deck of seats in left field, only the 17th homer hit there in the 18-year-old Rangers Ballpark.
But Cruz struck out his other three at-bats. The right fielder is the only Rangers player to start all 36 games this season since second baseman Ian Kinsler got his first night off.
Rookie left-hander Robbie Ross relieved Feldman and got Jarrod Dyson on an inning-ending called third strike. Ross struck out two in his 2 1-3 innings.
Texas needed a spot starter after a rainout last week in Baltimore pushed Colby Lewis back to Thursday. Lewis (3-2) will pitch on his regular rest Tuesday night against the Royals.
NOTES: It had been three years since a homer was hit into the second deck of seats in left field until Mark Trumbo of the Angels hit one there Sunday night. ... Rangers RHP Yu Darvish said his body “feels normal” in preparation to start Wednesday for the first time since he pitched into the sixth inning Friday night even after a nearly 2-hour rain delay in the first inning. ... RHP Vin Mazzaro starts Tuesday for Kansas City in the spot of Jonathan Sanchez, who went on the DL last week. The Royals put left-handed starter Danny Duffy on the DL on Monday with a torn ligament in his elbow. ... The Rangers’ record streak of nine consecutive sellouts ended with a crowd of 38,702.