The Royals had wilted in these situations the past two nights. Do it one more time, and Texas would have its first sweep of the season.
It didn't happen. Kansas City finally fought back in its 6-5 victory, answering the Rangers' rally in the eighth with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Thursday's loss prevented Texas from getting not just its first sweep but also from going two games above .500 for the first time this year.
"It is hard," manager Ron Washington said, "but we've been in position, and I certainly feel like we're going to get over that hump."
Reliever Frank Francisco came out to the mound with a 5-4 lead in the eighth. David Murphy had just hit a deep sacrifice fly that gave the Rangers their fifth run. On Wednesday, Francisco pitched a scoreless ninth. This time, he couldn't hold the Royals.
Alberto Callaspo started the inning with a single and then Alex Gordon hit a double down the right-field line. With runners on second and third, Francisco threw a wild pitch, allowing Callaspo to score. Jose Guillen then hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Gordon and giving Kansas City the lead.
The loss soured Eric Hurley's solid Major League debut. Hurley, a first-round pick in 2004, came into town on Tuesday. The extra days helped relax his nerves because he got time to throw bullpen sessions and study Kevin Millwood's start against the Royals on Tuesday.
"You get to hang out with the guys before you get out there and get to know everybody," Hurley said. "That definitely helps."
At first, it didn't show. Hurley gave up a two-run homer to Gordon in the first inning. He settled down for a while before giving up another two-run shot in the fourth, this one to Mike Aviles.
Washington praised Hurley for doing enough to keep the team in the game. Those home runs could be a problem, though. Hurley gave up a home run in 10 of his 13 Minor League starts this year. He gave up more than one in four of those.
"He's a young kid," Washington said. "He'll make the adjustments he has to make. I expect the more he goes out there the better he'll adjust."
Texas gave Hurley a lead in the second inning on back-to-back home runs. German Duran hit the first, a three-run shot. Ian Kinsler then went deep for his ninth of the year.
Those were the only runs Kansas City starter Brian Bannister gave up. Texas got its other run in the eighth off Ramon Ramirez.
Joakim Soria came in for the ninth and shut down the Rangers. When Ramon Vazquez flew out to left field for the third out, it became official that Texas still wouldn't get its first sweep.
The Rangers have had the opportunity six times this season. Three times against Oakland and once each against Seattle, Houston and Kansas City, Texas has won the first two games of a three-game series before losing the third.
The Rangers' inability to sweep speaks to their problem with stringing wins together. They've won three or more consecutive games just four times this season.
"It's not that difficult," Kinsler said. "Teams do it all the time. For some reason, we can't get over that hump. We're not too worried about it. As long as we're winning series, we're going to be in the race."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.