KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One play never decides a game, but one play can cause a huge swing in momentum.
The Rangers experienced that momentum shift to the downside in the third inning Tuesday night when Ian Kinsler was picked off third base in a 6-3 loss to the Royals. It happened, Kinsler said, because he failed to note the positioning of third baseman Mike Moustakas with Josh Hamilton at the plate and one out.
“Normally, when Josh is up, the third baseman is pretty far off,” Kinsler said. “But I didn’t check where he was at. I got caught.”
The Rangers led 2-0 and seemed primed for more when Kinsler led off the third with a double and went to third on Elvis Andrus’ sacrifice bunt. With Hamilton at the plate, the Rangers were anxious to tack on at least one more run for starter Matt Harrison.
But the Royals had the infield in and Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez made a snap throw to third, picking off Kinsler. From that point on, it was all Royals. Kansas City got two in the third and roared away to even the series at one game apiece.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said it was a fundamental breakdown that allowed the Royals to execute the pickoff at third.
“Infield in, you’re making the ball go through,” Washington said. “Don’t square up your shoulders. He (Kinsler) squared up his shoulders and couldn’t get around.”
Washington said a sideways position would have allowed Kinsler to get back to the bag.
Once Kansas City grabbed the momentum, the Rangers didn’t have any answers offensively or in the pitching department.
“With Hamilton up there and Kinsler on third base with less than two outs, I’m thinking we’re going to get the run,” Washington said. “But you don’t know if you are or not. They outplayed us. They played better than we did tonight.”
After a slow start, Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie came on strong. Guthrie went seven innings, allowing just five hits and two runs. Harrison labored through 4 2/3 innings. He needed 102 pitches to get 14 outs.
“Once Guthrie got to a tie ballgame, he just put up zeroes the rest of the way,” Washington said.
The Rangers, 80-55, will put Tuesday’s loss behind them and look ahead.
“We didn’t play our best ball,” Kinsler said. “We’ll come back (Wednesday) and get back after it.”