KANSAS CITY -- Frayed feelings, ill-received ribbing and late-season frustration seemed to bubble over in a semi-heated pregame batting-practice exchange between Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and third-base coach Matt Walbeck on Monday evening. The incident was smoothed over afterward, and by the eighth inning, Hamilton had reached third on a single by Milton Bradley and was laughing, joking and having a good time with Walbeck. This was one August night when the Rangers were able to relax and enjoy themselves, snapping a three-game losing streak with a 9-4 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Nelson Cruz celebrated his arrival from Triple-A Oklahoma with three hits, including a three-run home run in the third inning off of Royals ace Gil Meche. Cruz, who had 37 homers and 99 RBIs before being called up, also had a double and a single starting in right field. "Call that: sudden impact," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Nellie kind of sparked us tonight," Hamilton said. "If he did it down there, then there's no reason why he can't do it up here." The three-run home run off Meche gave the Rangers a 5-0 lead in the top of the third inning. The Rangers totaled 19 hits in all. Each starter had at least one hit, and four of them had three on the night. Michael Young, Bradley and Joaquin Arias -- batting in the leadoff spot for the first time -- also had three hits each. "It was a good night for me," Cruz said. "It takes the pressure off me and makes me a little more relaxed." The Rangers know Cruz has had big games before, and one was right here at Kauffman Stadium almost 13 months ago. He was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma on July 28, 2007, and hit two home runs against the Royals. The Rangers thought many more games like that would follow, but Cruz hit just four more home runs the rest of the way and was unable to seize an everyday job. The Rangers hope this go-around will be different, after Cruz's terrific four months at Oklahoma. "I'm not talking about the past; I'm looking at tonight," Washington said. "All that matters is what Cruz does from now on. He was very aggressive tonight and swung the bat well. He hit all pitches and hit to all fields. He was aggressive on pitches in the zone. That's what you like to see out of him." The offensive support allowed Scott Feldman to end his own personal streak of frustration. Feldman held the Royals to three runs (two earned) in seven innings to earn his first victory in more than a month. Feldman was 0-2 with a 6.33 ERA in his last five starts since beating the White Sox on July 21, and the Rangers had lost all five of those games. But two of his past three outings have been officially classified as "quality starts," and he leads the staff with 12 on the season. "I felt like I had a pretty good rhythm for most of the night," Feldman said. "Even in the innings where I gave up runs I still felt I made good pitches, but they found some holes. I was just trying to work fast and get our guys back in the dugout." Feldman outpitched Meche, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Meche gave up a career-high 14 hits in 6 1/3 innings and is now 4-9 with a 6.32 ERA in his career against the Rangers. That's his highest against any American League team. "He's a tough pitcher," Young said. "We knew coming in we were going to have our work cut out for us, because he has been throwing the ball well, but fortunately for us, we had some decent at-bats early and got some big hits. Even in that one inning, he was throwing the ball pretty well." The Royals did have the Rangers lead down to 5-3 after seven innings. But Chris Davis opened the eighth inning with a home run and the Rangers added three more after that, and thus were finally able to relax, for a change. Even their pregame flareup was forgotten. "It's all squared away," Washington said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.