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Hammel goes wild, can't escape pivotal 4th

Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- Even in defeat, the Royals have been buoyed by their starting pitchers lately, entering Sunday with a Major League-leading rotation ERA. Then, even that lifeboat sunk in a 5-2 loss as the Rangers completed a four-game sweep.

Jason Hammel only threw three-plus innings -- five outs shorter than the shortest start in the Royals' 17 games this season. A bout of wildness consumed him in the fourth, when he walked leadoff hitter Ryan Rua, hit Joey Gallo in the foot, hit Robinson Chirinos in the forearm and then walked Jurickson Profar to bring in a run. That was it for Hammel, who had thrown 84 pitches, as manager Ned Yost brought in reliever Scott Alexander.

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ARLINGTON -- Even in defeat, the Royals have been buoyed by their starting pitchers lately, entering Sunday with a Major League-leading rotation ERA. Then, even that lifeboat sunk in a 5-2 loss as the Rangers completed a four-game sweep.

Jason Hammel only threw three-plus innings -- five outs shorter than the shortest start in the Royals' 17 games this season. A bout of wildness consumed him in the fourth, when he walked leadoff hitter Ryan Rua, hit Joey Gallo in the foot, hit Robinson Chirinos in the forearm and then walked Jurickson Profar to bring in a run. That was it for Hammel, who had thrown 84 pitches, as manager Ned Yost brought in reliever Scott Alexander.

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"He was grinding through it," Yost said of Hammel. "He wasn't sharp. He was battling his command. ... the first three innings, he was grinding through it, which resulted in a higher pitch count and then he just kind of lost the feel for it in the fourth."

The pitch that hit Chirinos pinged off him only inches from the knob of the bat, and it was originally ruled a foul tip. But the Rangers challenged, the call was overturned and the unlucky break accelerated Hammel's unraveling.

Video: KC@TOR: Chirinos awarded HBP after Rangers challenge

"Honestly, before that I was already trying to do too much, trying to overthrow ... that wasn't too much of a turning point, but obviously, bases loaded, no outs after that and it creates quite the situation," Hammel said.

Hammel had sailed smoothly through the first two innings, striking out five out of seven batters at one point, including four in a row. He gave up two one-out singles in the first before getting a swinging strikeout and a foul-tip strikeout to escape the jam, and then he struck out the first two hitters looking in the second inning.

"He had a pretty decent breaking ball, which was getting guys," Yost said.

Video: KC@TEX: Moustakas, Bonifacio hit back-to-back homers

After the Royals staked him to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, Hammel allowed a single to Shin-Soo Choo, a groundout that moved Choo to second and an RBI single to Elvis Andrus in the bottom half. Hammel surrendered a total of three earned runs on four hits, three walks, two hit batsmen and five strikeouts.

The Royals fell to 0-4 in Hammel's starts this season, while Yu Darvish pitched eight strong innings for the Rangers, dominating more as the game went on, for the win.

"I've got to trust the stuff and let it work," Hammel said. "For whatever reason, I shifted into trying to make the perfect pitch and overthrowing, and I really got myself and us into trouble. We should have won that ballgame -- the guys came out early and put on some runs against Darvish, who doesn't give them up. So that one's on me."

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Texas.

Kansas City Royals, Jason Hammel