KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Six pitchers combined to throw 273 pitches Monday afternoon, but two pitches in particular created the most excitement at Kauffman Stadium.
One was a borderline pitch that could have helped keep alive Yu Darvish's bid for a perfect game, and another hit Nelson Cruz and pumped up the Texas Rangers.
But the final outcome -- Rangers 8, Royals 4 -- was all that mattered to Darvish, who said all the pieces of his rookie season are coming together, and Cruz, who hit one of five Rangers homers in the series-opening victory.
The key, said Rangers manager Ron Washington, was Darvish, who retired the first 17 Kansas City batters.
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"It was as good as I've seen his stuff," Washington said. "His curveball, they couldn't do anything with it. He was doing everything we want him to do today."
The victory, coupled with an Oakland loss, lifted the Rangers into a four-game lead in the American League West. Third-place Anaheim trails by 8 1/2 games.
Geovany Soto's three-run shot in the second inning was the big blow for the Rangers, who also got homers from Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Cruz and Michael Young.
Cruz's homer in the sixth came on the next pitch after Beltre homered, and Young's homer came the first pitch after Cruz was plunked by Louis Coleman to start the ninth inning.
Cruz had no doubt that he was hit intentionally for perhaps an extended look at his homer that traveled an estimated 420 feet. He said something to Coleman, then said something to catcher Brayan Pena before both benches and both bullpens emptied.
No punches were thrown, and no one was ejected from the game. Cruz wasn't planning on fighting anyone, but he wanted to make sure the Royals knew he was onto them.
Brayan, Cruz's former teammate in the Dominican winter league, tried to say it wasn't an intentional plunking.
"He was lying to my face," Cruz said. "I knew they hit me on purpose. They can say whatever they want. I'm not going to do anything. I just told them that's BS."
The next batter was Young, who drove the next offering an estimated 403 feet.
Young could be seen barking a few words as he ran between first and second, and then he nearly broke third-base coach Dave Anderson's hand as they slapped hands.
Ian Kinsler greeted Young to start a parade of vicious high-fives as he entered the dugout.
"I cared about the fact that it was a two-run game and we needed runs," Young said. "Whatever happened there stays between the lines. I'm not going to talk about it publicly."
Darvish hasn't been in the league that long, but he's starting to figure out what it takes to win games. Darvish (14-9) won for the third time in four starts and was perfect until a 3-2 slider to No. 9 hitter Johnny Giavotella was called ball four by umpire Mike Everitt with two outs in the sixth inning.
The next hitter, David Lough, looped a liner just past shortstop Elvis Andrus to end the no-hitter. Tony Abreu followed with a triple, and Alex Gordon had a double before Darvish got out of trouble.
He said the close call to Giavotella didn't affect what happened next, even though he squatted to the ground in agony after the walk.
"I tried to throw it right down the middle," said Darvish, who threw only 87 pitches in seven innings. "At that moment, I wanted the call. I went back and looked at the replay, and I saw that it was barely a ball. It just goes to show that the umpires are right and good, and that the hitter had a very good take."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760