KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The hottest hitter in the Texas Rangers' lineup kept churning out runs Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium, and their hottest starting pitcher has found his groove.
Adrian Beltre and Ryan Dempster were the key contributors on a night when the three main cogs in the bullpen leaked some oil against a Kansas City lineup that keeps on hitting.
But the Royals didn't hit much against Dempster, and Beltre has hit everyone the past two weeks.
Beltre launched a three-run homer in the first inning, and Dempster allowed two runs in six innings as the Rangers beat the Royals 7-6 and added a game to their lead in the American League West.
The victory moved the Rangers five games ahead of Oakland and kept them 7 1/2 up on Anaheim, which completed a three-game sweep of the A's earlier in the day.
But it wasn't easy for the Rangers, who can win the four-game series tonight against the pesky Royals.
"They didn't quit," manager Ron Washington said. "They kept coming, and they did it against the best we've got."
Michael Young added a solo shot to spark a three-run seventh, and Joe Nathan locked down his 27th straight save despite having the winning run come to the plate with two outs in the ninth.
The Royals scored four runs against Rangers relief stoppers Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Nathan after the Rangers had gone ahead 6-2 at stretch time.
Kansas City had a response, scoring twice against Ogando to cut the Rangers' lead to 6-4. But Beltre tripled to start the eighth, and Nelson Cruz followed with a single to restore a three-run lead.
The Royals continued to make the Rangers sweat, sending the tying run to the plate twice in their half of the eighth and scoring once against Adams.
Not even Nathan could cool Kansas City. The Royals scored with two outs on a single by Alcides Escobar to bring the winning run to the plate, but Alex Gordon lined out to left field.
"They're only human," Washington said. "Tonight, they had to go out and earn everything. They've been throwing up zeros left and right, and tonight they got enough outs and didn't give up too many runs that made it a disaster."
The Rangers never trailed thanks to Beltre, who hit his 29th homer of the season after Ian Kinsler started the game with a single and Josh Hamilton took a one-out walk.
The Beltre shot was his fourth in five games and 10th in his past 16.
He will carry a six-game hitting streak into the series finale and is hitting .462 (12 for 26) in that stretch.
But the third baseman said he doesn't feel as good at the plate as he did a year ago, when he was the AL's Player of the Month for September.
"That's what I'm supposed to do all year," he said. "I felt better last year. I can't explain it. It doesn't mean I can't feel better the next couple weeks."
Dempster improved to 5-1 since he was acquired July 31, but he has done his best pitching in his past four starts. He has won all four, with a tidy 1.73 ERA.
He said it wasn't a matter of him having to adjust to a new league but executing his pitches down in the zone and getting the results he had when he left the Chicago Cubs at second in the National League in ERA.
"I was in a situation where you're playing for pride. Now you're playing for something," Dempster said.
"I've been doing this a while. It's really simple. You take one pitch at a time, and you execute those pitches. If you keep the ball down and change speeds, you're going to get results. It doesn't matter what lineup you're facing."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760