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TEX@KC: Guthrie goes seven and keeps Rangers in check

KANSAS CITY -- Pitcher Jeremy Guthrie can become a free agent. Catcher Salvador Perez is signed up for five years. But they certainly clicked well together for the Royals on Tuesday night.

Guthrie worked seven strong innings for his fourth straight victory as the Royals defeated the Texas Rangers, 6-3, at Kauffman Stadium. Alex Gordon and Johnny Giavotella supported him with home runs.

Perez picked a runner off third base at a crucial time, sending Guthrie into a groove that made him virtually untouchable for his last four innings of work.

More and more Guthrie looks like a possible good fit for the Royals next season. Obtained from Colorado on July 20 for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, he's not only won his last four decisions, the team has won in each of his last six starts. In those games he has a 2.04 ERA despite one short, poor outing at Boston.

What does Guthrie provide?

"Stability, more than anything else," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He adds example by the way that he pitches. When he misses, nine times out of 10, he's down. His execution, his preparation and his ability to compete. They're all positives and they're all great examples -- everything that he does."

Guthrie got off to a sluggish start against the Rangers. Elvis Andrus homered in the first inning. Mitch Moreland banged an RBI double in the second inning. And, in the third, Ian Kinsler led off with a double and was bunted to third. Slugger Josh Hamilton was at the plate.

That's when Perez, on a sign from third baseman Mike Moustakas, picked off Kinsler for the second out.

"The big momentum shifter was the throw by Salvy; he made a great, great play there," Guthrie said. "One out, man on third, to pick off Kinsler. That was a huge kind of sigh of relief for me. I scuffled up to that point, and to have him do that and then come back and get big hits later on to get the lead, that was a big change."

Guthrie was so pumped, he struck out Hamilton for the third out and was on his way. Only an error and a walk marred his next four innings.

"That's a big play," Yost said. "You're staring down the barrel of being down, 3-0. You've got an All-Star [Matt Harrison] on the mound with a tremendous offensive club out there. To pick a run off third base like that and keep it 2-0, you still feel like you have a chance for something to happen and it did."

Two unearned runs in the third inning, sparked by Alcides Escobar's double -- breaking his 0-for-21 skid -- got the Royals even. Escobar scored on Billy Butler's sacrifice fly to medium center field, even though Hamilton's throw beat him to the plate. Somehow, Escobar got past Geovany Soto's tag, although the Texas catcher protested strongly to home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale.

Then they got to Harrison for three runs in the fifth with Alex Gordon belting a 414-foot, two-run homer to center field. Then Butler singled and, on Perez's double to right center, the beefy Butler sprinted all the way home from first base.

"It's good to see him do that every once in a while," Gordon said. "We had some oxygen and a towel waiting for him in the dugout and he was ready for it."

Yost thought the daring dashes by Escobar and Butler were crucial.

"I thought Eddie Rodriguez had a tremendous game tonight coaching third base. He made some tough calls and they all paid off," Yost said.

Giavotella topped off the Royals' scoring with a solo shot off reliever Roy Oswalt that followed Gordon's trajectory to center, going an estimated 416 feet for a 6-2 lead.

"I was up there with a two-strike approach, trying to drive something hard up the middle, got a pitch middle in and put a good swing on it," Giavotella said. "Put one out of the park."

It was his third Major League homer and his first this season. His last homer came almost exactly a year ago, Sept. 3, 2011, and he'd gone 185 at-bats without one.

There was some drama at the finish. Reliever Kelvin Herrera breezed through the Rangers in the eighth, but Hamilton and Adrian Beltre began the ninth with singles. That brought closer Greg Holland out of the bullpen to get three straight outs, including Michael Young's sacrifice fly. Holland earned his 11th save in 11 chances.

Guthrie, now 4-3 since joining the Royals, will be a free agent for the first time. He says he hasn't talked to the club about his future, although he does have some plans after the season ends on Oct. 3.

"Yeah, I just booked a flight to Spain," he said.

But Guthrie allowed that he feels comfortable in Kansas City.

"It's been a good opportunity for me," Guthrie said. "I said it from day one and I continue to say it."

And, sure, if Royals management wants to have some conversations about 2013, he indicated he's willing.

"I'm a talker," Guthrie said. "I'm kind of like Billy Butler, so I'll keep talking."

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