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Padilla, Blalock pace Texas past KC

Padilla, Blalock pace Texas past KC

ARLINGTON -- Vicente Padilla was long gone when the Rangers clubhouse opened after the game.

No word on how he felt about his terrific outing. No insight on what he did to strike out Alex Gordon in the biggest moment of the game. No explanation as to why he has pitched so much better at home than on the road.

No chance to even ask how his family and friends made out during Hurricane Felix, which battered his native land of Nicaragua earlier this week.

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He had as many words to say as he did runs to give up, which is the only thing the Rangers care about. Padilla pitched six scoreless innings and the Rangers made it stand up with a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Rangers Ballpark on Wednesday.

Padilla left with a 3-0 lead after six innings and Wes Littleton gave up a two-run home run to John Buck in the seventh. But the combination of Bill White, Jamey Wright and Joaquin Benoit closed it out and the Rangers won for the ninth time in 11 games.

Benoit pitched the ninth because manager Ron Washington wanted to give C.J. Wilson the night off and the Rangers bullpen was still solid. The Rangers are 50-2 when leading after six innings this year and 57-0 when leading after eight innings.

"We've got 13 guys in the bullpen now, we should be still strong," Benoit joked. "Nobody is going to mess with us now. No, we've been doing good all year and at the end of the season, we still know what we have to do to shut the door."

White is one of the relievers that the Rangers have added lately and he was able to contribute to a victory in his Major League debut, retiring two of three batters he faced in relief of Littleton.

"It's hard to describe with all the excitement," White said. "It's everything you dreamed of when you step out there and look around."

Hank Blalock provided the offense with two RBIs off a double and a single and is now 4-for-14 with six RBIs since coming off the disabled list.

"Believe me, he's not comfortable," Washington said. "But he's experienced and he's drawing on that. The more at-bats he gets, the more comfortable he'll be. He's doing everything he can."

They all combined to make a winner out of Padilla, who is now 5-9 with a 6.01 ERA on the season. He held the Royals to two hits, two walks and one hit batter over six innings.

"That's what I expect out of Padilla every time he goes out there," catcher Gerald Laird said. "He's got great stuff. I don't expect anything less than the stuff that happened tonight. He's got that kind of stuff."

Padilla usually saves that kind of stuff for home. If Padilla had pitched on the road like he has at home, this would have been a pretty good season for him. If he pitched at home like he has on the road, he'd probably be pitching for some far-off independent league team by now.

Padilla is now 4-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 10 starts at home as opposed to 1-6 with a 9.06 ERA in 10 starts on the road. Since the beginning of last season, Padilla is 12-8 with a 4.24 ERA in 27 starts in Arlington, and is 8-11 with a 5.85 ERA on the road.

"To me, the only thing that matters is how he did tonight," Washington said.

How he's done since coming off the disabled list might also be of interest to the Rangers, since Padilla is still their No. 2 starter going into next season. Wednesday's victory left him 2-1 with a 4.08 ERA in five starts and Washington said he's pitching better because of his fastball.

"He's doing everything working off fastball," Washington said. "When he uses his fastball around the zone, it opens up his breaking ball and his changeup. When he uses his fastball in and out, he's effective."

That was the same thing that happened last season. Padilla was 5-4 with a 5.29 ERA in his first 12 starts before pitching coach Mark Connor finally coaxed him into trusting and relying on his fastball. Padilla then went 10-6 with a 4.11 ERA in his final 21 games.

The fastball was the big pitch in the biggest at-bat of the night on Wednesday. Padilla was facing bases loaded and two out in the sixth when he blew a 3-2 fastball past Gordon to snuff out the threat.

It was a huge moment. Padilla might have said so himself.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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