ARLINGTON -- No mystery about what the Royals' pitchers meeting centered on prior to the opening of the series against the Rangers: Those maddening bases on balls.
No one is more frustrated than pitching coach Bob McClure. He preached his recurring sermon again on Thursday.
"You have to continue to reiterate: Get ahead of the hitters, have confidence in your stuff, and be aggressive in the strike zone," McClure said. "You have to sell into that."
McClure, who started the job in 2006, watched his charges issue 637 walks that year and did a selling job that worked -- the total dropped to 520 in 2007 and 515 in 2008. Last year it went back to 600, most in the American League, and this year's crew is back at it with a league-high 123 entering this series.
Like hot hitting, strike-throwing can also be contagious among teammates, McClure believes, and much of it has to do with a pitcher's level of confidence. Some of it can be mechanical, but especially with more experienced pitchers, it's more mental. The pitchers have to believe that they can throw strikes with their best pitches and get batters out. Pretty simple.
"The reason they got here is they've got big league stuff, but they'll never know how good they are unless they're throwing strikes," he said.
Sometimes there's a delivery flaw and some pitchers are just naturally better at it, but in McClure's view, Major Leaguers all have the ability to throw strikes. Sometimes they're pitching too fine or are too cautious with dire results.
"I have a saying: You either physically can't or you don't want to," McClure said.
The Royals' bullpen especially has been negligent with 54 walks, second-most in the AL entering Thursday's games. That's in a mere 89 innings. The starters were tied for fourth most but their rate was more acceptable, 69 walks in 162 innings.
Kyle Davies added to that on Thursday night, walking three Rangers -- two to start an inning -- and, sure enough, all of them scored. The relievers, in a reversal of form, issued no walks at all in their four innings.
McClure keeps pressing his lesson home: Pound the zone and take your chances.
"It's frustrating because I know they can do it. And they know that I know they can do it. Now it's up to them to do it," McClure said.
"I can't string 'em up or nail 'em to something or use that old stretching machine they had in medieval days and say, 'You're going to do this or else.' But I'm close to that point."
Multiple homers a rarity for Soria
ARLINGTON -- The back-to-back homers marked just the third time that Joakim Soria had given up multiple homers in a game, and the first time he'd ever allowed back-to-back blasts.
The previous sluggers were Carlos Pena in the ninth inning and Eric Hinske in the 10th on July 7, 2008, at Tampa Bay, and Oakland's Tommy Everidge and Mark Ellis in the ninth inning on Aug. 8, 2009.
Soria had given up just 14 homers before the blasts lit up by Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero gave the Rangers a 13-12 win on Thursday night.
This was his second blown save of the year. He has seven saves.
Soria relieved Robinson Tejeda, who had retired all five batters he faced, in the eighth inning and immediately surrendered the homers.
"We have the best closer in the league and they got him but he's still the best," Tejeda said.
Davies turns in worst start of season
ARLINGTON -- After the Royals' 13-12 loss to the Rangers on Thursday was history, someone mentioned to Kyle Davies that a lot had happened after he left the game in the fourth inning.
"A lot happened when I was out there, too," Davies said.
Sure did. In what Davies termed his poorest performance of the season, he gave up nine runs on nine hits and three walks in four-plus innings. The third inning was a six-run thumping with five hits, including Justin Smoak's thundering three-run homer.
"From the onset, it wasn't very good," Davies said. "I battled as hard as I could, I couldn't find my command today. I made some good pitches and they blooped them in and I made some bad pitches and they hit them out."
Well, one went out anyway. He had no-decision thanks to the Royals' comeback, but his ERA jumped from 3.52 to 5.45.
Royals heavy on righties in opener
ARLINGTON -- Royals manager Trey Hillman put a right-handed-heavy lineup on the field on Thursday night against Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison.
That included Mike Aviles moving into second base for Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt returning to shortstop and Willie Bloomquist replaced David DeJesus in right field.
"Lefties haven't had too much production off of Mr. Harrison so it's a good day to give Getzy a day off. We'll see how the lineups flow through this series," Hillman said, aware that lefty C.J. Wilson starts for the Rangers on Friday night.
Harrison had held left-handed hitters to a .192 mark this season as opposed to .280 for righties. The only lefties in the Royals' starting lineup were outfielders Scott Podsednik and Mitch Maier.
Hillman to be honored by alma mater
ARLINGTON -- It's a time for Royals manager Trey Hillman to collect some honors.
On Saturday afternoon, his uniform No. 1 will be retired by the University of Texas-Arlington where he played baseball. He said he found the honor "shocking" but was humbled by it.
"I wasn't that good," he said. "I was just blessed to get a scholarship, blessed to play there and blessed to be signed as a free agent with Cleveland and it's kind of snowballed over the years."
On June 3, Hillman will be inducted into the Southland Conference Hall of Honor in ceremonies at Galveston, Texas. His father, Royce Hillman, will accept for him.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.