KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Perhaps it simply took a whirlwind trip to the White House for the Kansas City Royals to remember that they're the reigning World Series champions.
Danny Duffy scattered four hits while pitching into the seventh inning, the Royals scratched out three runs off the Rangers' Yu Darvish, and Kansas City shrugged off a sluggish start to the second half to beat Texas 3-1 on Friday night in the opener of their three-game series.
''I think being around the guys on an off day was a positive,'' said Duffy, who along with the rest of the Royals slipped out of town to see President Barack Obama in the midst of a long homestand. ''We got to do something not a lot of people get to do.''
The Royals had dropped four of six since the All-Star break before Friday night, when Duffy (6-1) gave up only Rougned Odor's homer in the fourth inning. The left-hander struck out four, walked two and gave his bullpen a breather on a steamy evening that began with a heat index of 108 degrees.
Luke Hochevar wiggled out of Duffy's jam to end the seventh, Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect eighth and Wade Davis worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his 21st save.
The victory kept the Royals (48-47) from dropping below .500 for the first time since May 17.
''Duffy's got a big fastball with a quality changeup and breaking ball. He was really tough on us,'' Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. ''A quality start, a quality starter, he's been doing that all year.''
Darvish (2-2) nearly matched Duffy in his third start off the disabled list. He allowed single runs in each of the first three innings, struck out 11 and made only one big mistake - Cheslor Cuthbert's home run.
''I feel really good about where Yu is at and what he showed us tonight,'' Banister said.
Still, it wasn't good enough to keep the AL West-leading Rangers from losing for the eighth time in nine games. The slide has been marked by poor pitching, inconsistent hitting and a series of devastating injuries - sluggers Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo went on the DL earlier this week.
Without them, the Rangers certainly struggled to create scoring chances Friday night.
Duffy carved through the lineup without allowing a hit the first time through, the only baserunner a walk to Elvis Andrus. He went on to load the bases on a single and hit batter in the third inning, but Duffy calmly struck out Ian Desmond on three pitches to leave them stranded.
His only other trouble came when he put runners on the corners with two outs in the seventh, forcing Hochevar in from the bullpen. He got pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland on a liner to preserve a 3-1 lead.
They built it in typical Royals fashion: They scored a run in the first on a single, stolen base, error and groundout then scored again in the second on a walk, stolen base and consecutive singles.
It wasn't until Cuthbert went deep leading off the third that they made Darvish look fallible.
''Darvish is a really good pitcher,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ''To scratch out two runs early is perfect situational baseball, to give us that lead early.''
The Rangers reinstated LHP Jake Diekman (cut left index finger) from the DL and designated LHP Cesar Ramos for assignment. Diekman last pitched July 5 at Boston.
Rangers: Fielder will see neck specialist Dr. Drew Dossett on Monday. The DH/1B is facing the prospect of season-ending neck surgery after an MRI earlier this week revealed a herniated disk near an area that was repaired two years ago. Dossett also performed that procedure.
Royals: CF Lorenzo Cain (left hamstring strain) hoped to begin a rehab assignment his weekend, but it has been pushed back to early next week. He's been on the DL since June 29. ''He was pushing it too hard two days ago and just kind of fatigued his leg,'' Yost said. ''Not a setback by any stretch.''
Rangers LHP Cole Hamels, who tossed eight sharp innings in a win over the Cubs his last time out, makes his first career start at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday. He faces Royals RHP Yordano Ventura.