KANSAS CITY -- Kevin Millwood likes to stay on a schedule where he pitches every fifth day, but the Rangers decided even before Saturday's game that he would be given extra rest before his next start. Turns out Millwood could use it. Millwood, who had a 3.05 ERA in his seven previous starts, gave up six runs on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings and the Rangers lost to the Kansas City Royals, 6-5, for the second straight night at Kauffman Stadium.
Millwood's early struggles kept the Rangers from fully celebrating Nelson's Cruz's spectacular return from Triple-A Oklahoma. Cruz, recalled on Friday and starting for the first time, drove in all five of the Rangers' runs with a pair of two-run home runs and a run-scoring grounder. "It's exciting to be back and it's good to start this way," said Cruz, who had 15 home runs and 45 RBIs in 45 games at Oklahoma. "I wanted to come back, stay with my swing and keep playing the same way." Cruz gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a two-run home run off of Royals starter Odalis Perez. The Rangers were trailing, 6-3, with one out in the ninth, when Cruz hit another two-run home run off of reliever Octavio Dotel. "That was a pretty good comeback," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He swung the bat well tonight. If he can continue to have good at-bats, it gets his confidence high and he can help us win some ballgames." The home run off Dotel came with Brad Wilkerson at second base, and it was the Rangers' only hit in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Frank Catalanotto followed up Cruz's home run with a double, but Dotel struck out Ramon Vazquez and got Michael Young on a fly out to right field to end the game. The Rangers just couldn't quite overcome the early deficit caused by Millwood's struggles on a hot and unusually humid night. "The weather didn't bother me," Millwood said. "I just didn't make the pitches when I needed to. That's what it comes down to. I made some bad pitches at some bad times and when you do that, you're going to fail." Millwood walked one and hit two batters, including one that forced in a run, in his shortest outing of the season. He only got two more outs than Vicente Padilla, who is on the disabled list with elbow inflammation and pitched two-plus scoreless innings on a rehab assignment for Double A Frisco. Padilla threw 45 pitches. Millwood threw 77 before he left the game trailing, 6-2, with two out in the third. "He just didn't have command of his stuff," Washington said. "When he threw it in the zone, they hit it and they made him work pretty hard. That humidity wasn't easy for anybody and he threw a lot of pitches. You have to give the Royals credit. They made him work." The Rangers originally planned to use the day off last Thursday and the one on Monday to go with just four starters for a couple of weeks. That would have allowed Millwood to start this coming Thursday against the Cleveland Indians. Now the Rangers have decided to move up John Rheinecker and have him pitch against the Indians on Wednesday instead of waiting until Saturday against Toronto. That pushes Millwood back to Friday against the Blue Jays. "I told (pitching coach Mark Connor) that an extra day of rest is good," Millwood said. "It's getting late in the season. I'm not extra fatigued or anything, it's just the point of the season where I could use the extra rest." Cruz gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the second inning but Millwood couldn't hold it against the bottom of the Royals lineup. He retired the first two hitters in the second inning but Emil Brown doubled just over Brad Wilkerson in left field and scored on John Buck's single to right. After Tony Pena Jr. singled, Millwood hit both David DeJesus and Mark Grudzielanek to force in a run. The pitch to Grudzielanek was a 1-2 fastball that caught him in the left arm. The Rangers were miffed that Grudzielanek did not even make an effort to get out of the way of the ball. "He didn't even try," Millwood said. "I guess that's OK." Millwood then gave up six straight hits in the bottom of the third inning that brought home four more runs. Millwood is now 7-9 with a 5.95 ERA on the season. "I just didn't do much to help myself," Millwood said. "I got behind in the count, I didn't put the ball where I wanted it and they weren't chasing anything."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.