ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Adrian Sampson provided evidence Sunday that he doesn’t need to follow a closer to the mound for the Texas Rangers to be successful.
The 27-year-old right-hander struck out a career-high 11 in seven innings and earned his first major league win as a starter, leading the Rangers over the Kansas City Royals 5-1.
Texas won three of four in the series. The Royals ended a 1-6 trip that left them with a major league-worst 8-23 road record.
Sampson (4-3) posted his previous three victories in relief of an opener during his last three outings. He gave up one run and eight hits, and walked none.
“I knew I’d be out there in the heart of it, and it was just good to get a win today,” he said.
Sampson brought an 0-4 career record into this season in six appearances for the Rangers and Seattle Mariners beginning in 2016.
“I’m pretty sure we won’t use (a closer) next time,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “That was amazing what he did. Showed us a lot. Showed me a lot. It showed our entire staff a lot — guts.”
Texas reliever Jesse Chavez pitched a scoreless ninth to run his shutout streak to 18 1/3 innings.
Brad Keller (3-7) allowed three runs in seven innings. The American League leader in walks with 42 didn’t walk anyone but had two wild pitches, one that scored a run.
Texas took a 1-0 lead in the third on three opposite-field singles and added two runs in the fifth, the second on an opposite-field single by Nomar Mazara.
Sampson escaped a jam in the fifth in which the Royals used bunt singles by Terrance Gore and Billy Hamilton to load the bases with none out. He retired Whit Merrifield on a liner to third base, Adalberto Mondesi on a swinging third strike on an off-speed pitch and Alex Gordon on a called third strike on another off-speed delivery.
“A lot of times a young pitcher will get in that situation and want to try to power his way through it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He did just the opposite. He totally abandoned his fastball and went soft.”
Jorge Soler hit his career-high 15th home run in the sixth inning for Kansas City’s run.
The Royals loaded the bases in the eighth inning with two outs, but Shelby Miller got Cam Gallagher to fly out to center field.
Sampson became the first Texas pitcher with at least 11 strikeouts and no walks since Cole Hamels had 12 with no walks on Sept. 19, 2015 against Seattle.
YOST, UMPIRE NOT IN HARMONY
Yost was expressing his displeasure about Whit Merrifield striking out on a foul tip to end the top of the seventh inning with home plate umpire Todd Tichenor when they were interrupted by the singing of “God Bless America.” The pair then stood side by side at the plate facing center field.
“We were still kind of going after it, still talking about it during ‘God Bless America,'” Yost said. “It’s a tough call for the home plate umpire. Base umpire’s got to see that.”
GALLO TO IL
Rangers CF Joey Gallo, who’s tied with three others for second place in the AL with 17 home runs, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain that happened in Saturday’s game and will probably miss about two weeks.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a quick trip,” he said.
BIRTHDAY — AND IT’S A BOY
Rangers RHP Chris Martin celebrated his 33rd birthday. After the game at the plate with expectant wife Danielle, he swung easily at a slowly tossed pitch that exploded with blue power as a gender reveal.
Texas scored a second run on a third wild pitch, in the eighth inning by Jake Diekman. … Mondesi hit his major league-leading eighth triple, breaking a tie with Merrifield. … Royals 3B Cheslor Cuthbert had his second career three-hit game.
Royals: C Martin Maldonado, who left Saturday’s game in the sixth inning with right forearm tightness, was available but given the day off.
Royals: RHP Glenn Sparkman (1-1, 4.21) will open a home series against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. His previous start lasted two batters into the second inning, when he was ejected for hitting Tim Anderson for White Sox.
Rangers: LHP Drew Smyly (1-3, 6.98) will start Tuesday’s series opener at home against the Baltimore Orioles on five days’ rest unless Woodard decides to move up LHP Mike Minor (5-4, 2.74).