ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Mike Minor had a four-hit shutout and a one-run lead over the Royals going into the sixth inning on Thursday night. The only thing that was disconcerting was his pitch count was at 97 through five.
“I just couldn’t get soft contact early, a lot of deep counts,” Minor said. “I know I struck a lot of guys out, but the pitch count was high again.”
That has kept Minor from going deep into games lately and he was unable to get through the sixth in the series opener. A couple of ground-ball singles set up the inning and then Jorge Soler smashed a first-pitch fastball off the left-field foul pole for a three-run home run that sent the Royals to a 4-2 victory at Globe Life Park.
“[Junis] pitched exactly the way we expected him to,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s got a good slider and I think he used his fastball a little more effectively than we expected. I think that may have thrown us off a little bit, but most of his outs were on the slider and he used it a lot. We never got anything going offensively.”
Minor entered the game having allowed just two runs in his previous 30 innings over four starts at home. He appeared to be on a roll before Adalberto Mondesi led off the sixth with a ground-ball single to left.
Alex Gordon followed with a slow grounder to the left side that slithered past third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. Shortstop Elvis Andrus took it deep in the hole, but he had no play on Gordon. Woodward said that was a play Cabrera should take and at least get a force at second base.
“I think there was a little miscommunication there, he thought Elvis was going to get it,” Woodward said. “I would say it’s Cabrera’s ball to go after, especially when your momentum is carrying toward second base. There was a little miscommunication, I’m not sure why he thought Elvis would have a better shot at it.”
Soler then jumped on a first-pitch fastball and drove it deep off the left-field foul pole to give the Royals a 3-1 lead.
“He’s not supposed to hit that,” Minor said. “I was going in, he’s not supposed to hit up and in, and he did. I don’t know how he’s sitting on that one when I’m throwing changeups the whole game.”
Minor is 2-2 with a 3.33 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in his last five games while averaging 19 pitches per inning. In six starts prior to that, he was 3-1 with a 1.43 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP with an average of 14.2 pitches per inning.
“Tonight was just tough because I felt I made a lot of good pitches and they swung and missed a lot,” Minor said. “I just needed that soft contact early and didn’t get it. Next thing you know the pitch count was up and they got a couple guys on right there and a home run, so kinda sucked.”
Mazara made it a one-run game with a home run off Junis in the sixth. But the Royals got that one back when Mondesi went deep off reliever Jeffrey Springs with one out in the seventh.
Rangers injury updates
• Outfielder Scott Heineman is experiencing more discomfort in his left shoulder and he has been taken off his medical rehab assignment at Triple-A Nashville. Heineman underwent offseason surgery on the shoulder and he had played just six games at Nashville before being shut down.
• Willie Calhoun, who is on the injured list with a strained left quad muscle, is hoping to start swinging the bat in the next day or two, but he is still at least 10 days away from a possible return. He was working out in Arlington while the Rangers were on the road.
• Joey Gallo was back in the lineup on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s game with a sore right wrist. Gallo was 0-for-3 with a walk, two strikeouts and a foul pop.