Royals catcher Salvador Perez takes the throw as the Rangers' Elvis Andrus slides into home plate during the first inning Sunday. Andrus was tagged out on the play. (LM Otero / Associated Press)
Arlington, Texas — Ned Yost scoffed at the idea that the Kansas City Royals were worn out at the end of a long road trip.
“Everybody’s full of life,” the manager said. “We’re in a pennant race, man.”
The Royals are headed home with a two-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central, even after a 3-1 loss Sunday to the Texas Rangers.
“It stings a little bit. You win two out of three here, but you had a chance to sweep,” said Billy Butler, whose ninth homer accounted for the only Royals run. “If it was the other way around, you lose the first one and win the last two, it’s a little bit different mentality. Our goal is to win series. We’ve done that.”
Kansas City began the series with consecutive 6-3 victories, part of 24 wins in the best 30-game stretch in team history. The Royals, who also took three of four at Minnesota before a two-game split at Colorado, play 20 of their next 26 games at home.
“Keep winning series, and we’re going to be OK,” Yost said.
Scott Baker (2-3) went five innings in a spot start to win as a starter for the first time in more than three years. He missed all of 2012 after Tommy John surgery with Minnesota, and made only three starts at the end of last season for the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s still special because of the road that I’ve had to endure as far as injuries,” said Baker, who earned a win in relief in his previous appearance on Aug. 12. “It’s fun, regardless of whether you’re a starter or a reliever.”
Adrian Beltre put Texas ahead to stay with an RBI double in the first. Beltre had his fifth straight mulithit game, including all three games in this series to extend his hitting streak against the Royals to 17 games.
Neftali Feliz worked the ninth for his sixth save in seven chances since reassuming the closer role a month ago after Joakim Soria was traded to Detroit.
Texas had five doubles off Jason Vargas (10-6), including a run-scoring hit for Adam Rosales in the second. Alex Rios had a leadoff double in the third, and scored on a single by Robinson Chirinos.
Chirinos started after catcher Geovany Soto was a late scratch. The Rangers announced during the game that Soto was traded to Oakland for cash.
Vargas (10-6) allowed 11 hits and walked four in his six innings, but gave up only three runs. The left-hander had walked only one in 25 1-3 innings previously this month.
“It was a start that he really had to grind out. He didn’t have any clean innings,” Yost said. “I thought he did a phenomenal job of keeping us in the game, getting us through six innings. Very, very tight strike zone, which doesn’t play to his advantage.”
Seattle 8, (at) Boston 6: Dustin Ackley had three hits and scored three runs, Seattle’s bullpen was sharp for the second straight day and the Mariners beat Boston for the Red Sox’s eighth straight loss.
Ackley had a triple, double and single, finishing 13 for 25 in six games against Boston this season. The Mariners completed their first-ever sweep in a series of three or more games in Fenway Park.
“It’s a good place to hit, especially for a lefty,” he said. “You’ve got that wall over there. It’s a good spot to hit and we made the most of it today.”
Kyle Seager drove in two runs for Seattle in a game that lasted 4 hours, 7 minutes.
“Probably the best word I can probably think of is very draining,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Boston stranded 15 runners and was 6 for 19 with runners in scoring position.
“We had a number of opportunities we created for ourselves once again,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “For us to snap out where we are, this is going to come from us on the mound.”
Dominic Leone (7-2) worked 2 2-3 innings of hitless relief for the win. Fernando Rodney escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth for his 38th save and the Mariners’ pen held Boston to one run over 6 2-3.