For a time, it looked like there might be a second no-hitter in as many days in Royals Stadium. Not for the home team, who had enjoyed Jim Colborn’s no-no the previous night, but from Texas emergency starter Adrian Devine, who held the home team hitless for five innings as the Rangers downed KC, 7-3, on Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers had planned to send Nelson Briles to the mound, but he injured his ankle before the game. Devine, who had thrown just 3 ⅓ innings in May, got the call instead. He picked up two strikeouts in the first, then worked around an error that allowed leadoff hitter Al Cowens to reach in the second. After a one-out stolen base and a walk, Devine retired Cookie Rojas on a fly ball and Freddie Patek on a grounder.
Those two outs were the first ones in a string of 12 straight batters retired by Devine. By the time the Royals broke through against the understandably tiring starter, they were down 6-0.
That’s because Royals pitchers couldn’t figure out Rangers DH Willie Horton, who belted three home runs in the game, giving him six for the year against Kansas City hurlers and two against the rest of the league.
It was actually Rangers first baseman Jim Fregosi, in his first at-bat of the season, who got the scoring started for Texas. He homered off Paul Splittorff with two outs in the first. Horton made it back-to-back homers, and the Rangers had a quick 2-0 lead.
In the third, Juan Beniquez led off with a double, ahead of a Bert Campaneris walk. Catcher Darrell Porter picked off Beniquez at second, but Bump Wills singled. A Fregosi single scored Campaneris and ended Splittorff’s afternoon. Reliever Doug Bird managed to get Horton out, but on a run-scoring sacrifice fly, before another fly ball ended the inning with Texas ahead 4-0.
Bird wasn’t as fortunate in the fifth. Wills tripled with one out and Horton homered into the left-field bullpen with two outs, giving Texas a 6-0 advantage.
At last the Royals’ offense came alive in the sixth. With one out, Dave Nelson broke up the no-hitter with a single. Tom Poquette singled, moving Nelson to third. Hal McRae hit a sacrifice fly and Al Cowens homered, cutting the deficit to 6-3. But Paul Lindblad came on in relief and finished out the inning, then pitched three scoreless innings for the save.
Horton put an exclamation point on his day with a solo home run off Marty Pattin in the eighth.
Manager Whitey Herzog seemed exasperated with his team’s inability to get Horton out. “The pitches we throw to him…they were all hanging breaking balls. That’s really concentration, isn’t it?” he said.
With the loss, the Royals dropped to 17-16. They were in fourth place in the AL West, five games out of first.
Box score and play-by-play: