LOS ANGELES (AP) — Keone Kela made a rookie mistake, and it cost the Texas Rangers a chance to win four in a row from the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Kela balked home pinch-runner Kike Hernandez with two outs in the ninth inning, and the Rangers lost a 1-0 heartbreaker Thursday night after spot starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched on even terms with 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.
Kela (4-4), who preserved the Rangers’ 5-3 win Wednesday night with his first major league save, walked Yasmani Grandal and Andre Ethier to open the ninth. First baseman Mitch Moreland then turned Alberto Callaspo’s grounder into a 3-6-3 double play, but the right-hander was rattled by Hernandez’s bluff toward the plate with a 1-2 count on Jimmy Rollins, and was called for the balk simultaneously by plate umpire Marvin Hudson and first base ump Jim Joyce.
"I didn’t need for them to tell me. We could see it," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "You could see (Hernandez’s) little fake-break down the line, and you saw the little shoulder turn by Leone. It was a balk. It was very slight, but it was there. We got the double-play ball and were in good shape with two strikes on Rollins, but we just came up a little short tonight."
Ranaudo allowed five hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out four in his second start of the season after getting recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Round Rock to give everyone in the Rangers’ rotation an extra day’s rest. On April 15, he gave up six runs and six hits in just 1 1/3 innings of a 10-2 home loss against the Angels while filling in for an injured Derek Holland.
"I think the biggest thing was that if just kind of erases that start for me this year and shows that that was just a bad outing," Ranaudo said. "This one gets me back on track to where I need to be when the team needs me. And whatever my role is, going forward, I have the confidence that I can pitch here and help this team win."
The Dodgers wasted a one-out triple in the first by Yasiel Puig as Ranaudo retired Adrian Gonzalez on a sharp grounder to first base and Howie Kendrick on a liner to right field. Ranaudo escaped another jam in the fifth, retiring Puig on a liner to center field with runners at first and second after getting a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux.
Los Angeles put runners at the corners in the seventh with a leadoff single by Ethier and a hit-and-run single by Rollins with one out. Justin Turner pinch-hit for Greinke and flied out to shallow center field on Ranaudo’s 100th and final pitch before lefty Ross Detwiler came in and retired rookie Joc Pederson on a flyout.
"We’ve never really seen this guy," Grandal said of Ranaudo.
The Rangers got a brief scare in the bottom half when Ranaudo tried to grab a one-out comebacker by Kendrick with his bare hand and fell to his knees after his left foot slipped on the slope of the mound. Kendrick was credited with a hit, but Grandal took a called third strike and Shin-Soo Choo flagged down Ethier’s flyball in the right field corner.
Greinke scattered four hits over seven innings, struck out eight and walked none while lowering his ERA to 1.81. The hard-luck right-hander is 0-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his last eight starts, and the Dodgers have fewer than three runs in six of them — including last Saturday’s 2-1 loss at San Diego, when Greinke went the distance for the first time this season.
Ranaudo knew what he was up against, but he wouldn’t let going up against one of the league’s top pitchers distract him from his game plan.
"I try not to think about that too much," Ranaudo said. "I mean, obviously, it’s a real part of the game. He’s a great pitcher. He’s shown it all year with his numbers, and he showed it tonight. But I was more concerned about just trying to pitch my game and execute pitches. I was just trying to go out there and have some fun, and I really took that approach."
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (2-0) got the victory with a perfect ninth.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
Rangers: Placed 1B Kyle Blanks was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of inflammation in both Achilles tendons.
Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis (6-3) opposes Chris Sale in the opener of a three-game series at Chicago, having recorded victories in each of his last five starts against the White Sox — and shutouts in each of his last two at U.S. Cellular Field.
Dodgers: RHP Mike Bolsinger (4-1) gets the assignment Friday night for the opener of a three-game set against the Giants at Chavez Ravine.