By Alan Eskew, The Sports Xchange
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lorenzo Cain was thinking extra innings when he hit a fly ball to right field with two outs in the ninth and the bases loaded.
Then Cain recalled how difficult the sun was on a hot Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
Cain’s sun-aided single drove in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning as the Kansas City Royals topped the Texas Rangers 4-3.
Rangers right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo had trouble picking up Cain’s hit in the sun, although he was donning sunglasses. The ball glanced off his glove near the right-field line as Alex Gordon scored the winning run.
“It was tough,” said Cain, who fought the sun in center to make catches. “Once the ball gets in the sun, it’s almost impossible to catch. I was able to make a few plays. One of them very lucky, I didn’t really see it. I just saw a black dot and put my glove there and it went it.”
Rangers manager Jeff Banister knew the bright sun could play havoc with the outfielders.
“Obviously, it was a tough sky with the sun, and Choo really battling,” Banister said. “You could see that he was grinding to try to get to it. Obviously, he got there and it looked like it went off his glove. Tough sky, tough sun.
“The way this ballpark’s set up for day games, it’s one of those plays that if it gets made everybody’s happy on our side. They made the sun balls. We just had a situation where we didn’t complete the play.”
Choo said he saw the ball early.
“The ball just kept going to right field and then I lost the ball,” Choo said.
Jason Grilli (2-5), who was making his third Rangers appearance since being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays, took the loss. He retired only two of the six batters he faced.
“You live and die by the sword,” Grilli said. “I felt like I had good stuff. Anything and everything that could have happened, happened. But we played a good series. It would have been nice to sweep, but we’re on a good start to the second half.”
Kelvin Herrera (2-2) picked up the victory, working a 1-2-3 ninth.
“When you go up against the sun, the sun wins most of the time,” Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield said
Drew Butera scored an unearned run in the seventh inning as Kansas City took a short-lived 3-2 lead.
After Butera singled with two outs, Merrifield doubled to left, and when Nomar Mazara had trouble picking up the ball, third base coach Mike Jirschele waved Butera home.
Texas tied it in the eighth off Joakim Soria, who blew his seventh save in eight opportunities. Elvis Andrus doubled with two outs and scored on Mazara’s single.
The Royals scored a run in the first but could have had more. Merrifield led off with a high chopper for an infield single and advanced to third on Jorge Bonifacio’s single to right. Merrfield scored and Bonifacio went to second on Yu Darvish’s wild pitch with Cain at the plate.
With one out, Darvish made a throwing error on a pickoff attempt of Bonifacio at second. Bonifacio advanced to third on the error.
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, the Royals’ cleanup and No. 5 hitters, failed to get him in. Hosmer popped up foul to third baseman Drew Robinson and Moustakas flied out to Mazara in left.
The Rangers tied it in the third on Robinson’s home run to right with one out. Robinson drove a full-count Ian Kennedy pitch out to right.
The Royals regained the lead in the bottom of the inning when Moustakas’ two-out double scored Hosmer.
Mike Napoli homered in the seventh off Kennedy to tie it at 2. Napoli took a 1-1 offering out to center for his 20th home run of the season.
Kennedy was removed a batter later after Jonathan Lucroy singled. Peter Moylan retired Carlos Gomez on a fielder’s choice grounder to end the inning.
Kennedy permitted two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out six, walked one and hit a batter, throwing 99 pitches.
Darvish allowed three runs (two earned) and eight hits while striking out six and walking one.
“It’s always better to get a win in any games,” Darvish said through a translator. “Today we had a sweep, but at the same time we won the first two games, so we won the series. That’s what we need to keep focusing on, to win every series on the next road trip and just do what we can do.”