KANSAS CITY, Mo. – On just about any other night, the 13 walks their pitchers issued would have been the most embarrassing aspect of Kansas City's 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers.
But this was not any other night.
After rookie sensation Eric Hosmer homered off Texas closer Neftali Feliz in the ninth inning to tie it 3-all, injecting the crowd and the team with a big dose of momentum and energy, Feliz walked the next two batters.
But he then picked off pinch-runners Jarrod Dyson and Mike Aviles, back to back, one right after the other, taking all the air right out of the Kansas City sails.
The Rangers said they had never seen such a thing. According to STATS LLC, it hadn't happened since a Cubs-Mets game more than eight years ago.
According to Aviles and Royals manager Ned Yost, Feliz should have been called for two balks, not credited with two pickoffs.
"He bent his front knee. He definitely did," Aviles said. "He had a balk move and it went unnoticed and he picked two guys off. His left knee broke forward. His left knee bent. Once your left knee bends, you've got to go to the plate."
Rangers manager Ron Washington scoffed at the notion.
"There's pitchers in the league who are doing that. The umpire never called a balk," he said. "So I don't know anything about Neftali having a balk move. Of course there's other guys in the league doing that. The umpire didn't call it a balk. That's all I've got to say about it."
Yost sided with his player.
"My opinion is he was balking. He was breaking his front leg and then coming to first base," he said. "The umpires are going to have to keep their eyes on that. It's a good move."
Aviles admitted the pickoffs shouldn't have happened in the first place.
"But it shouldn't be that close. That can't happen," he said. "But that's just the way baseball goes sometimes, I guess."
Jeremy Jeffress walked the bases full in the 11th, running the Royals' total on the night to 13. Then Adrian Beltre, who came in with a career average of .373 in Kauffman Stadium, delivered a solid single into center. Endy Chavez scored easily and Ian Kinsler scored on a close play at the plate.
Brayan Pena had an RBI single in the bottom of the 11th.
Yost said there was nothing to blame the walks on.
"No, we just have to command better," he said.
Danny Duffy, the ninth rookie to be added to the Royals roster, made his major league debut and issued six of the walks. In four-plus innings, he also gave up two runs and four hits, and struck out four.
"I didn't have much control tonight and that's contrary to what I've been doing," the left-hander said. "I feel like I doubled my walk total for the year. It was fun. I had a great time. But I didn't come up here to keep my team in the game. I came up here to win."
"I thought Duffy threw the ball great," Yost said. "His pitch count got way up. But stuff-wise, very impressive. Very encouraging."
The Rangers had gone ahead 3-2 in the top of the ninth on a pinch-hit RBI single by Elvis Andrus.
Joakim Soria, on his 27th birthday, walked Craig Gentry leading off the Texas ninth. Chavez sacrificed him to second and then Andrus, batting for Andres Blanco, who was 2 for 4, delivered an RBI single.
Texas' Alexi Ogando went seven strong innings, his eighth straight career start without a loss, two shy of the club record. The right-hander, who spent last year in the bullpen, allowed two runs and four hits, failing in only one inning to set the Royals down 1-2-3. He walked one and struck out five.
Chavez singled and came around to score on Beltre's fielder's choice grounder in the third inning and then the Rangers tied it 2-all in the fourth without putting the ball in play. No. 9 hitter Craig Gentry drew a two-out walk and stole second, then Chavez walked and the two pulled a double steal. When Duffy bounced a breaking pitch in the dirt, Gentry scored on the wild pitch as the ball rolled toward the backstop.
NOTES: The Texas team record for most starts beginning a career without a loss is 10, by Gerald Alexander from Sept. 9, 1990, to July 21, 1991. ... It was the 60th birthday of Jim Sundberg, a Rangers front office executive and the man who scored the winning run on a headfirst slide in Kansas City's Game 6 World Series victory over St. Louis in 1985. ... Sugar Ray Marimon and Chas Byrne combined on a no-hitter for KC's Class-A Kane County team at Cedar Rapids on Tuesday night.