ARLINGTON -- For the second straight day, a pitching duel broke out at Rangers Ballpark. This time, it wasn't the Royals who provided the late-inning heroics.
Jurickson Profar hit a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning off J.C. Gutierrez as the Royals squandered a brilliant outing by Ervin Santana, who held the Rangers to one unearned run on three hits over seven innings, in a 3-1 loss in Sunday's rubber game.
"I was trying to go with the sinker and I just left the ball up, and he hit it," Gutierrez said. "I was feeling pretty good. I was making my pitches. I just made that one mistake and I paid for it."
Gutierrez, who replaced Santana in the eighth, struck out pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski and got Craig Gentry to ground out before surrendering a two-out, 383-foot homer to Profar, who hit the ball just beyond the wall in right field. David Murphy added to the lead later in the inning with an RBI single that brought Elvis Andrus home.
"It looked like he was going to get through the inning real easy," manager Ned Yost said of Gutierrez. "He had me thinking, I'm going to send him back out for another one. This is kind of a fly-ball park. You don't have to hit it real hard to get it out over there. He didn't crush it."
Andrus led off the game by reaching on a throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar, who overshot first baseman Eric Hosmer and allowed Andrus to go to second. Andrus moved to third on a flyout to center by Murphy and scored on a swinging bunt from Lance Berkman.
Santana had struggled against the Rangers in the past, posting a 6.04 ERA in 27 career starts against them entering Sunday and a 7.47 ERA in 16 career starts at Rangers Ballpark. But Santana was strong in this one.
"He knows us pretty well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "In certain counts, you'd think he might throw a fastball, and he threw a changeup. Then you think you're looking for a changeup, and he threw a slider. That's just Santana."
The Royals loaded the bases with none out in the second and had multiple runners in scoring position in the fourth, but neither team scored again until the eighth inning, when Neal Cotts replaced Yu Darvish, who tossed seven scoreless innings and allowed just three hits.
"[Darvish] was gettable today," Yost said. "We were in a position to do some damage, especially with the bases loaded and nobody out. We had another chance with second and third and couldn't push any runs across. We had opportunities, but we couldn't make it happen."
Alex Gordon, who snapped an 0-for-14 stretch with a single in the fifth inning, led off the eighth with a broken-bat double to right and moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Escobar. The next batter, Hosmer, hit a high chopper to third baseman Jeff Baker, who fired home late and too high for catcher Geovany Soto to apply the tag as Gordon slid in safely to tie the game.
But the Royals couldn't break through against Darvish earlier and it cost them. Billy Butler was thrown out by center fielder Gentry trying to tag up on a fly ball to center by Jeff Francoeur in the second, as the Royals could not score despite the first three batters reaching base that inning. It was their best chance to score against Darvish, who ran his league-leading strikeout total to 111.
"It's kind of like he's been all year," said Butler, who tied a career high by drawing three walks on Sunday. "He has a good slider and he mixes speeds. His fastball is in the mid-90s and he locates well. He's got one of the better sliders in the game. He throws it at different angles."
Butler drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and Mike Moustakas was hit by a pitch to put two on with none out for Lorenzo Cain, who struck out, before Francoeur flew out to center and George Kottaras struck out to end the inning. For the second straight game, the Royals went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"We had a lot of chances," Butler said. "We played well and tied it late, then they got those two runs. It was just a tough game. We were right there, one pitch away, one hit away at every point in that game. It was very frustrating."
The defeat marked the fifth straight series loss for the Royals, who have dropped 21 of their last 27 games.
Christian Corona is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.