But Royals pitcher Brian Bannister dropped it, and the error gave the Texas Rangers a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night as 12,662 fans sat in at Kauffman Stadium.
First, some bookkeeping. The Rangers, in 40 years of coming to Kansas City as a franchise, never before had won a three-game series here. This time they did, a snappy turnaround after they'd lost 14 of 17 games coming into Cowtown.
If that sounds familiar, the Royals also had lost 14 of 17 games coming into this series. Now they have lost 17 of their last 20 games.
These Rangers are a team of mighty wallopers but in the last two one-run victories, they scored just five runs and three of them were courtesy of errors. Yet they got no challenge from the Royals' batsmen.
Bannister, pitching well, had a 2-1 lead going into the seventh inning. But after a double play, he gave up back-to-back doubles to Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the score was tied.
Bannister lamented that development more than the dropped popup.
"I should've put away those two lefties in the seventh, and didn't do it," he said.
Then came the popup -- a simple play that has bedeviled the Royals so often recently. This was one was an innocent looking thing that was sent up by Joaquin Arias. It wasn't high enough for anybody except Bannister to catch so he waited for it off to the side of the mound.
"You just close your glove and it's not in there," Bannister said. "I can't remember the last time I caught a popup, to be honest with you. It was just a weird popup. I don't know if it broke [Arias'] bat but it just came right off his hands like a cue ball. And it hit and it didn't stick."
There were two outs, remember, and Saltalamacchia was speeding from second base and rounding third just like they teach you in Little League.
"My thing is just to run as hard as I can," Saltalamacchia said. "I'm not in there every day so I had to bust my tail any chance I can get."
Bannister, a bit startled that he didn't catch the ball, made a tardy throw home.
"I couldn't tell whether I had it or not," he said. "Then I had to look down and then I had to get the guy at home and it was just too late."
That was it. Bannister was out of the game and would remain winless since June 23 -- 11 starts ago. Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison would get the victory with impeccable help from three relievers who retired the last seven batters.
The early jousting involved Esteban German knocking in the Royals' first run with a double in the third. And he scored the second run, riding home on David DeJesus' single in the fifth. In between, Brandon Boggs led off the Rangers' fourth with a home run. That was fitting because Boggs was a stand-in for slugger Josh Hamilton, out with an aching tooth.
The Royals missed some chances, notably in the fourth, which began with Jose Guillen's single and Billy Butler's double. No outs, runners at second and third and nada, nothing, zippo. Harrison reeled off three straight outs, including a throwout of Guillen at home.
Despite taking his 14th loss, Bannister earned some kudos.
"Other than the last inning, he pitched very well," manager Trey Hillman said. "He got ground balls when he needed them."
"He threw a great game," Harrison said. "Unfortunately for him he dropped that popup and it cost him a run. I tried to battle him pitch for pitch and outlast him."
Bannister notched eight strikeouts, his career high.
"These guys have some big sluggers in the lineup and take some big hacks and I think that might have led to some of the strikeouts tonight," he said.
He just needs some work on popups.
"I just didn't catch it," Bannister said. "It should have been caught. You don't get a lot of practice and it should have stuck in the glove and it didn't."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less