KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward was hoping Willie Calhoun’s arrival from Triple-A Nashville would help ignite a club that had slogged through five straight losses.
Calhoun did exactly that.
A two-run homer in the first inning by the former top prospect set the tone, Ronald Guzman added a two-run shot of his own and the Rangers rolled to a 6-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
“He comes in and is kind of the spark player that gets us going,” Woodward said about Calhoun. “I’m not surprised. I’ve seen that bat. He’s got amazing hands with that swing. It was nice to see.”
Shin-Soo Choo added a solo shot in the ninth inning and Nomar Mazara matched a career high with four hits as the Rangers won for the sixth time in their last eight games against Kansas City.
Mike Minor (4-3) got through five rocky innings, allowing one run on eight hits and two walks.
“I would grade it as a ‘C’ by his standards,” Woodward said. “But it showed a lot of our guys that you don’t have to have your best stuff to be successful.”
Guzman drove in a run in the fourth before sending a hanging pitch from Jorge Lopez (0-5) booming into the center field seats in the sixth. The two-out shot broke open a 3-1 game and sent Lopez, who had plunked two batters and struggled with command all night, trudging toward the showers.
Lopez allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out seven.
“Command got him,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was fighting command up to the point he elevated his pitch count. He got burned on his two center-cut curveballs for home runs.”
Calhoun, called up from the minors before the game, got the Rangers off to a good start. The erstwhile elite prospect sent a first-inning pitch from Lopez soaring into the seats over the right-field bullpen, the no-doubt shot staking Texas to a 2-0 lead.
“His first night, he comes up and when you have a guy like Mike Minor pitching, getting ahead is huge,” Mazara said. “He really got us going.”
Kansas City answered by manufacturing a run in the bottom half against Minor, whose last appearance at Kauffman Stadium came as the Royals’ closer in the final game of the 2017 season. But after Adalberto Mondesi’s RBI single, the veteran left-hander escaped the rest of the inning unscathed.
It wasn’t the last time he negotiated trouble.
Minor also stranded runners on second and third in the second and fourth, and he pinned another runner 90 feet from home in the fifth. By the time that inning ending, Minor had survived a shaky night and has still allowed just 11 earned runs over his last 55 innings.
“He was making pitches close to what he wanted to do. I just kept helping him out,” the Royals’ Whit Merrifield said. “He was throwing fastballs up and in, out of the zone. I don’t know why I kept swinging at them, but I kept swinging at them.”
The Rangers’ bullpen allowed only one hit over the final four innings.
STATS AND STREAKS
Minor allowed leadoff singles in four consecutive innings. … Calhoun’s homer was the fourth of his career. … Choo’s homer snapped an 0-for-13 skid. … Lopez and the Reds’ Sonny Gray (0-4) are the only two pitchers in the majors with at least nine starts and no wins. … Kansas City was 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position after going 9 for 19 the previous night.
Texas put shortstop Elvis Andrus on the injured list with a strained right hamstring after he left Tuesday night’s game in the seventh inning. Woodward is hopeful Andrus will be ready to return in 10 days. “You don’t want this to linger with him,” Woodward said.
Calhoun was joined from Nashville by left-hander Jeffrey Springs to provide a fresh arm in the Texas bullpen. Right-hander Wei-Chieh Huang was optioned to the same club.
Rangers right-hander Shawn Kelley could be activated in the next couple of days, Woodward said. Kelley has been dealing with a bacterial infection. … Woodward said right-hander Ariel Jurado will likely start Saturday against St. Louis. Woodward plans to get “creative” with his starter Sunday because left-hander Drew Smyly has a slight ankle sprain and his next turn could get pushed back.
The Royals wrap up their homestand Thursday by sending Homer Bailey (4-3, 4.83 ERA) to the mound against Texas right-hander Lance Lynn (4-3, 5.48). Kansas City has lost 12 straight rubber games dating to May 30 last year, and has not won a series against the Rangers since July 2016.