KANSAS CITY -- So there was Jarrod Dyson taking his lead off third base. Scared to death, to hear him tell it, because big and menacing Salvador Perez was just about 80 feet away swinging a bat in his direction.
Sure enough, here came a line drive sizzling toward Dyson.
"I froze on that ball a little bit -- he crushed that ball, dude. I was scared for my life," Dyson said.
Not to worry. The ball screamed past, buzzed off the glove of Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre for a base hit and Dyson scored the eighth-inning run that would give the Royals a 2-1 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
With closer Greg Holland on enforced rest leave, Aaron Crow pitched the ninth inning and got the save.
A fortuitous win it was, too, because in Cleveland, Detroit had just rallied for a victory. If the Royals had lost, the Tigers would have vaulted over them into first place. As it is, Kansas City is still atop the American League Central by one-half game.
It was the Royals' second straight win, but prior to that they'd lost three in a row and then had a game suspended in the 10th inning trailing by two runs.
"We needed this win to get back on track," Dyson said. "We haven't been doing a great job scoring runs, but we're going to keep going out there and fighting every night and trying to make it work."
On this 79-degree evening with 19,435 folks in the stands, it was Dyson that made the eighth inning work -- after he'd failed.
Mike Moustakas led off with a single and speedy Terrance Gore, making his Major League debut, ran for him. Dyson could not get a bunt down and then grounded sharply to first baseman Adam Rosales, who threw across the diamond to catch Gore going into third.
"I was real mad and upset at myself," Dyson said. "So when I got to first I knew I had to make up for it and steal a couple bags and possibly get in. And Salvy did a great job of getting me in."
There was one out and Dyson swiped second base, but Omar Infante flied out. Alex Gordon was up and Dyson stole third base unchallenged.
"They don't really want to take a chance throwing down to third because if the ball gets by 'em, then I'm scoring easy," Dyson said.
Gordon was hit by a pitch, up came Perez and he shot a sizzler past Dyson and he was homeward bound with the deciding run.
"If he doesn't steal third there, that ball Salvy absolutely smoked and Beltre gets a glove on, Dice doesn't score [from second base] on that play," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "So that was a huge play."
(Afterward, third-base coach Mike Jirschele told Dyson he had no reason to fear getting creamed by Perez's liner. "Jirsch told me I'm too durn skinny to get hit," Dyson said, laughing.)
The prelude to all this was a pitching standoff between the Royals' Jeremy Guthrie, making his 28th start of the season, and the Rangers' Derek Holland, making his first start after knee surgery cost him most of 2014. Each pitcher went seven innings to a 1-1 tie.
Going that deep into the game was especially important for Yost because he knew that he wasn't going to use any of his three late-inning bullpen bullies, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland. They needed a break.
"I didn't even want 'em getting off that bench down there," Yost said. "I told 'em not even to get a pack of sunflower seeds. Don't get off that bench, have somebody get 'em for you."
So Yost used Francisley Bueno to get one out in the eighth, then Jason Frasor to tightrope through the rest of the inning. After a popout, Alex Rios got his third hit, stole second and went to third on Perez's throwing error. So Beltre was intentionally walked and Frasor preserved the tie by slipping a third strike past Ryan Rua.
After Dyson scored the tie-breaking run, on came Crow -- just back from a five-day sojourn with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He was well-aware of the Herrera-Davis-Holland situation.
"Just watching the games over the last few days, I knew those guys had been worked a lot so I knew there was a possibility that I'd be in there late in the game, but I didn't know when," Crow said.
But he took charge in the ninth with two outs followed by Rougned Odor's single. The Rangers sent out pinch-hitter Luis Sardinas and Crow struck him out. Crow had his third save of the year and the sixth of his career.
"I wanted to give him a little more leeway, but I just had a lot of confidence that he'd come in and get the save," Yost said. "He's the one guy down there that's done it so I wanted to give him that opportunity."
About then, the Royals learned that the Tigers had won as well.
"We have to win pretty much every day if we have a shot," Crow said, "because they're going to do the same thing so it's going to be an interesting September -- a fun September."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.