ARLINGTON -- After being in control for most of the afternoon, the Rangers survived a late scare from the Royals to hang on for an 8-7 victory on Sunday.
That made for a very honest clubhouse after the game, as C.J. Wilson delivered a harsh criticism of his start, and third baseman Adrian Beltre said he doesn't yet feel locked in at the plate despite leading the American League in home runs and RBIs.
Sounds like a highly competitive team coming off a World Series appearance.
The Rangers swept a Royals team that came in with a 12-7 record. The Rangers now have the best record in the American League at 14-7, and still there's a lot of self-critiquing going on.
Take Wilson for instance. He struck out 10 Royals and had an 8-2 lead going into the seventh inning. He did allow two runs on three hits in the top of the seventh to tighten the game a bit. But it's not like he walked three batters in the inning with a big lead.
Still, Wilson was unhappy after the game, saying he missed on too many pitches, like a cutter that Mike Aviles hit for a home run in the top of the fifth inning to tie the game at 2-2.
"I'm not happy with all sorts of things," Wilson said. "I threw a cutter right down the middle, the guy hits it out. I mean, he got it up in the wind and it went out. He hit it well.
"I give up hits on sinkers. I gave up a hit on a curve ball in the first inning. A couple of different pitches, I'm really [upset]."
Wilson improved to 3-0 on the season, his first as the club's No. 1 starter. He had a season-high 10 strikeouts, the third 10-K game of his career. Yet he said he prepares four or five days between starts to throw better than he did Sunday.
"I'm always dissatisfied to give up eight hits and four runs, it doesn't matter if I'm facing a Little League team or a Major League team," Wilson said. "I don't care if they're leading the league in batting average, I expect to get them out. I prepare a lot better than anybody else does, pitching-wise, in the American League. This is unacceptable for me. I expect to do a lot better than that."
Beltre hit his seventh home run, a solo shot for a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, and he now has 20 RBIs to lead the AL. He was on base all four times, with a single and two walks to go with his homer, and yet he offered this assessment of his season.
"I'm not consistent how I want to be," Beltre said. "I mean, I feel good, it's not like I feel bad, but I'm not locked in yet."
The bottom line for the Rangers is they're back in first place in the AL West by 2 1/2 games over the Angels despite being without reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton and All-Star closer Neftali Feliz. They are grinding out wins.
They did it Sunday by putting up six runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Shortstop Andres Blanco, playing because Elvis Andrus had the day off, led off the inning by hitting the second pitch he saw just inside the left-field foul pole to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. It was the second homer of Blanco's career -- he hit one playing for the Cubs in 2009.
The Rangers built on that stunning moment. Julio Borbon and Mitch Moreland walked in between Ian Kinsler flying out, and Michael Young extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single up the middle to score Borbon.
After Beltre walked and Nelson Cruz struck out, Mike Napoli, who homered in the second, drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-2. David Murphy then shot a line drive up the left-center-field gap to clear the bases and give the Rangers an 8-2 lead.
"It came from almost everyone in the lineup," manager Ron Washington said. "That's what it's about. We had to give a couple of guys the day off, and the guys that stepped in stepped in and did their job. That's what a team is."
The Rangers ended up needing the big inning. After Wilson gave up two runs in the seventh on RBI hits by Alcides Escobar and Chris Getz, Washington turned the game over to Brett Tomko for his first appearance as a Ranger.
Tomko got a double-play ball in the eighth and struck out the first two hitters in the top of the ninth. But he then gave up three straight hits with two strikes, the last a three-run homer to Aviles for the Kansas City third baseman's second long ball of the day.
That turned the game over to 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes, who got a grounder to shortstop to end the game and give him the record for the oldest player to save a game as a Ranger, ripping it away from Darren Oliver, who staked claim to the mark Friday night.
"Now I've got Darren Oliver beat and I'm happy," Rhodes said.
As a whole, the Rangers weren't happy with how parts of Sunday's game played out. But they're leading the division without key members of the team.
"The thing is we're trying to win games no matter how we do it," Beltre said. "Today we came out swinging, yesterday it was pitching. We know we're missing Hamilton, but we have to grind it out until he gets here and helps us out."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.