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TEX@KC: Eppley comes up empty against Francoeur

KANSAS CITY -- Putting the baseball in Neftali Feliz' right hand with a ninth-inning lead has been the ideal recipe for a Rangers victory in recent times.

But that recipe suddenly turned sour this week in Kansas City. Feliz blew his second save opportunity in two nights as the Royals rallied for a 2-1 victory in 10 innings Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. On Wednesday, a blown save by Feliz didn't hurt Texas because the Rangers wound up getting an 11-inning win. But Thursday was a different story.

With runners at second and third and two outs in the ninth, Mike Aviles won a long and tense battle with Feliz, delivering a run-scoring infield single to tie the game. The Royals then won it in the 10th on Jeff Francoeur's RBI single.

Entering the Kansas City series, Feliz had blown only four saves in his career, and had never blown consecutive save chances.

Aviles ran the count to 3-2 before fouling off five pitches from Feliz. Aviles then hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Elvis Andrus gloved behind second with no chance to do anything except stop the winning run from scoring.

"I thought he came out and attacked," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "[Aviles] did a good job of fouling balls off. They made him work. He was one pitch away. Aviles fought him for that at-bat and hit the ball to the one spot on the infield where we couldn't make a play."

Kansas City's rally in the ninth and 10th overshadowed an excellent start from Derek Holland, who took a 1-0 lead to the ninth. Washington chose to leave Holland in to start the frame because he wanted a lefty-versus-lefty matchup against celebrated rookie Eric Hosmer.

Holland jumped ahead of Hosmer, 0-2, but Hosmer proceeded to line a single to center. Feliz came on and allowed a single to Francoeur, but then got Billy Butler and Wilson Betemit. After a wild pitch, it all came down to Aviles and Feliz.

"I feel bad because we lost the game, but I'm going to put it behind me and just do the best I can the next time I go out there," Feliz said.

The Rangers (23-21) jumped ahead in the second inning when Chris Davis -- batting cleanup for the first time in his career as as starter -- blasted a homer to right off Royals' starter Luke Hochevar. It looked for a long time as though Holland and Co. would make Davis' jack hold up. But Aviles' tenacious at-bat in the ninth altered the script.

Looking at Feliz from 60 feet, six inches, Aviles said the Rangers need not be concerned about their closer.

"You look at the radar gun, and I don't think he's doing anything different," Aviles said. "There were some pitches to me that I don't even know how I got to, because they were off the plate or on the corner. But with two strikes, you just have to keep going, and hopefully foul it off until you get something to hit."

The Royals (21-22) were down to their final out and staring at a six-game losing streak when Aviles came through, setting the stage for more heroics in the 10th.

"We went through a five-game losing streak where it seemed we couldn't catch a break," Royals manager Ned Yost noted.

This time, the Royals got the big break when the Aviles grounder went to an opportune spot.

Feliz had thrown 26 pitches on Wednesday, but told Washington he was good to go for the series finale.

"Sometimes, a game like this is what it takes to get you going," Washington said.

Holland's only regret was the failure to get Hosmer in the ninth, which in turn made Feliz' job a little tougher.

"I got ahead of him and wanted to throw a fastball up," Holland said. "I got it down a little bit too much, and you have to tip your hat to him."

Holland said he'll take his chances anytime with Feliz coming on to protect a lead.

"Nine times out of 10, he's going to get the job done," Holland said. "It's nothing to worry about. He'll be all right." Comments