Chen stymies Rangers, keeps Royals rolling

Chen stymies Rangers, keeps Royals rolling

Chen stymies Rangers, keeps Royals rolling
ARLINGTON -- Give Royals manager Ned Yost an extra hat. Now he's an editor.

"The whole story revolves around Bruce Chen tonight," Yost said. "He kept it to where we could, with one swing of the bat, get the lead, and that's what happened."

Indeed, Chen deserved the headlines after the Royals knocked off the American League's best team, the Texas Rangers, 3-1, on Monday night. It was Chen's second straight victory and the fifth win in the last six games for the Royals.

For 6 2/3 innings, Chen stymied the Rangers on five hits and one run, and the bullpen finished up in style.

"He was changing speeds and throwing the balls on the corners," the Rangers' Adrian Beltre said. "He got a lot of calls from the umpire. He was throwing all around, down and in, up and away, and we were chasing."

A solo home run by Nelson Cruz roused the crowd of 38,702 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, but it was the only damage inflicted on Chen. He baffled Josh Hamilton so well with his offspeed pitches that the Rangers' .400 hitter twice let his bat fly into the stands, making spectators scramble to safety.

"We stopped the hottest hitter on the planet," said catcher Brayan Pena.

The Royals gave Chen a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning with two runs, both unearned, against Rangers spot starter Scott Feldman. Jeff Francoeur led off with a single and, after two outs, Chris Getz was safe on Beltre's throwing error, which enabled Francoeur to reach third. That set up a steal of second by Getz to put two runners in scoring position.

"That was key to be able to do that, because I think Adrian Beltre's the best third baseman in baseball, or right there with 'em," Yost said. "To take advantage of that was huge."

Alcides Escobar sent a line drive streaking into short center field.

"When I hit the ball, I saw the guy running in, and I said, 'I've got a chance to get a base hit,'" Escobar said. "I wasn't a hundred percent sure, though."

Francoeur, running from third base, offered vocal support as Craig Gentry rushed in for a diving attempt, but he trapped the ball on the first bounce.

"When he hit it, I was screaming at it to get down because I know how fast Gentry is out there, but luckily it got down," Francoeur said.

Cruz's home run, a towering 416-footer into the second deck in left field, came in the fourth inning, giving the Rangers a short-lived lead.

After the Royals went ahead in the fifth, they picked up a crucial insurance run in the seventh against reliever Robbie Ross, thanks to some fearless running by Francoeur.

Francoeur opened the inning with a walk, and when Mike Moustakas singled into center field, Frenchy streaked to third base. That was vital, because Pena then rapped into a double play and Francoeur was able to score for a 3-1 lead.

"That's one thing we practiced in Spring Training -- Ned said, 'Stay aggressive,'" Francoeur said. "I did get thrown out stealing earlier in the game, but I said, 'I'm going.' That's just the way we play. It burned us the first time, but the second time it turned out to be huge."

When Chen issued a two-out walk in the seventh, Yost opted to go with his bullpen. Kelvin Herrera ended that inning. Jose Mijares retired Hamilton on one pitch in the eighth before Aaron Crow arrived to get the last two outs. Then it was up to closer Jonathan Broxton.

He gained his eighth save in nine chances, but not before Rangers manager Ron Washington paraded three pinch-hitters to the plate. One of them, David Murphy, singled, but Broxton ended the game by whipping a 3-2 pitch past Mike Napoli for a called third strike.

"I'm used to it, being in the National League," Broxton said. "When you've got everything left on the bench, they're going to throw everything they have at you, just to try to get something going."

But they couldn't, and the Royals' bullpen has now given up just two earned runs in 22 innings for an 0.82 ERA while getting 22 strikeouts in the last six games.

"We like where our 'pen's at," Francoeur said. "We feel very comfortable that if we have a lead after six or seven, we're going to win the ballgame."

The Royals, by winning five of those last six games, are starting to feel pretty comfortable about everything.

"After the way we were playing in the beginning, even though we were losing close games, I felt like we were close to clicking," Chen said. "I feel like now we're playing the way we're capable of playing."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.