By Dave Skretta
The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Neftali Feliz walked Alcides Escobar on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning Friday night, giving the Kansas City Royals a 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the opener of an important three-game series between teams in the playoff race.
Texas dropped a half-game behind the Indians for the second AL wild-card spot with the loss. Cleveland beat the Houston Astros 2-1 in rain-shortened game. The Royals were three games behind Tampa Bay. The leading Rays played Baltimore.
The Rangers and Royals scored matching runs in the second inning before two stingy pitching staffs started throwing up zeros.
The Royals finally broke through when Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas hit consecutive two-out singles off the Rangers’ Jason Frasor (4-3) in the eighth. Pinch-hitter David Lough drew a walk on a full-count pitch to load the bases, and Rangers manager Ron Washington brought in Feliz.
He promptly walked Escobar, a .238 hitter, on four pitches as a crowd of 30,000 roared. It was just the 19th walk that Escobar had earned in more than 600 plate appearances this season.
Luke Hochevar (5-2) earned the win in relief of Ervin Santana, who allowed one run on five hits in 7 1-3 innings. Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 44th save.
The Rangers jumped out to an early lead when Adrian Beltre, whose .374 average coming into the game was the best of any current player at Kauffman Stadium, roped a single to lead off the second. It was followed by a double by A.J. Pierzynski for a 1-0 lead.
Clincher: BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox clinched the AL East title on Friday night, getting seven strong innings from Jon Lester to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 and eliminate Tampa Bay from the division race.
One night after securing their first playoff appearance since 2009, the Red Sox added their first division title since ‘07. Boston entered the night with a magic number of one — meaning the next Red Sox win or Rays loss would clinch the division.
Lester (15-8) allowed one run on five hits and two walks, striking out eight to win for the seventh time in nine decisions.