ARLINGTON -- Vicente Padilla didn't get a victory in his first start back off the disabled list. What he did, though, was give the Rangers some badly-needed hope that his health problems are over and that medical rehab statistics really don't mean a thing. Padilla held the Royals to one unearned run over five innings in his first start since June 21 as the Rangers went on to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 4-3, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday night.
Michael Young extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a two-run double in the sixth, Ian Kinsler hit his career-high 15th home run, and C.J. Wilson picked up the save in a grueling ninth -- despite giving up two runs and his first hits since July 17. But the story of the night was Padilla, coming the same day in which the Rangers announced that another starter -- Brandon McCarthy -- was going on the DL with a stress fracture in his right shoulder. The Rangers needed some good news from their starting rotation and Padilla delivered it. "He's a Major League pitcher," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Sometimes, numbers in the Minor Leagues aren't exactly what they are. He had good command of everything, especially his fastball, and he had good off-speed pitches and great tempo. Best of all, he was pain-free when he came out." Padilla's outing was quite unexpected after he posted an 8.25 ERA in six rehab starts -- and that was after going on the disabled list with a 6.69 ERA, the highest in the Major Leagues at the time. He has been sidelined for almost two months with triceps inflammation. "I asked how he was doing on rehab and they said 'the thing [is] he [has] high pitch-counts early,'" catcher Gerald Laird said. "That's a little bit of a concern because our bullpen has taking on a lot of workload lately. But he came right out in the first inning hitting his spots." Padilla's first inning back was quite impressive, as he struck out the side and ended up striking out eight, a season-high. Washington attributed that to Padilla throwing some harder breaking balls than he has in the past. "That was stuff I hadn't seen before," Washington said. "Most importantly, he had good life on his fastball and he had a good tempo. His tempo was real quick and we played well behind him." The Rangers did, even if the only run Padilla surrendered came on Laird's throwing error in the third inning -- a botched double rundown, in which every player on the field touched the ball except the left fielder. Two important double plays saved Texas in the final three innings. Padilla left, trailing 1-0, but the Rangers took the lead on Young's two-run double in the sixth, then added an unearned run in the seventh. Kinsler's 15th home run of the season made it 4-1. The Rangers needed the runs because the Royals were able to score two off Wilson in the ninth, snapping his 15 1/3 scoreless innings streak over his past 13 outings. The Royals also had runners on first and third with one out but Wilson got Tony Pena Jr. to hit into an inning-ending double play to third baseman Ramon Vazquez. "The big thing was keeping my composure," Wilson said. "Things were going haywire and some of it was my fault. I knew Pena was a free-swinger because he has something like seven walks. So I knew if I threw something with movement out of the strike zone, he would either whiff at it or hit it on the ground. I was going for the strikeout but, fortunately, he hit it on the ground." That was the second jam in which the Royals had runners on first and third bases with one out that the Rangers were able to escape from unscathed. The Royals, down 2-1, were in the same situation in the seventh. That time, Joey Gathright flied out to center and Marlon Byrd gunned down Jason Smith trying to score to end the threat. It was a big play. But nothing was bigger for the Rangers than five strong innings from the starting pitcher.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.