By Michael Kolligian and David Wilson
Special to MLB.com |
ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Kiermaier hit his second home run in as many days and the bullpen backed a solid start by Nathan Karns with four innings of scoreless relief to power the Rays to a 3-2 victory over the Royals on Sunday at Tropicana Field.
Kiermaier's home run was his seventh of the season and came with two outs in the sixth off Luke Hochevar, who had relieved starter Danny Duffy to open the frame.
Karns allowed six hits while striking out five and walking one in five innings of two-run ball, marking the American League-leading 19th time this season that the right-hander has allowed two or fewer runs in an outing. Duffy matched his Rays counterpart with five innings of two-run ball, allowing seven hits while striking out six and walking two.
Brandon Guyer launched his sixth home run of the year in the bottom of the third inning to knot the score at 2 after the Royals had taken a lead in the top of the frame courtesy of RBI singles from Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain.
"I worked a long at-bat [in the first] so that always helps the next couple at-bats," Guyer said. "This whole series, even though I've just been pinch-hitting, they've been pounding me with fastballs. I wasn't necessarily looking for fastball in, but it was one of those where I kind of knew with two strikes he could try to come in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED What a Guy-er: After scoring Tampa Bay's first run on a single by Joey Butler in the first inning, Guyer tied the game with a home run to lead off the third. The outfielder also tallied two singles and finished the game 3-for-4.
Royal response: Kansas City sent eight men to the plate in the third inning, working Karns for 33 pitches while turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Back-to-back RBI singles by Zobrist and Cain plated Omar Infante and Drew Butera, respectively, with the tying and go-ahead runs, but the Royals left the bases loaded when Mike Moustakas grounded sharply to first for the frame's final out.
Kiermaier stays hot: For the second consecutive day, Kiermaier delivered the biggest blow for the Rays. After belting a two-run home run during Saturday's loss, Kiermaier gave the Rays the lead on Sunday with his homer in the sixth. Kiermaier is finishing his breakout August with a bang. With one day left in the month, the outfielder has fought through a thumb injury to post a .330/.358/.484 slash line, and he went 10-for-22 with a triple and two home runs during Tampa Bay's six-game homestand, which featured a commemorative "Kevin Kiermaier Outlaw Action Figure Night."
"The plan is to basically send out an Outlaw figurine and bust his thumb," Rays manager Kevin Cash deadpanned. "He's in a good spot. Hopefully this is a little bit of a learning experience for him. He's super talented, he's got plenty of power. Less is more at times."
Freeze tag: Kansas City's best chance to tie the game after Kiermaier's go-ahead home run came in the eighth inning and was wiped out by a controversial call. With runners on the corners and one out, Kendrys Morales bounced a ground ball to James Loney at first base. Loney, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, stepped in front of the bag and, straddling the line, fielded the grounder.
While Morales waited a few feet outside the batter's box figuring a foul ball would be called, Zobrist ran home from third. Loney fired to the plate and Rene Rivera tagged Zobrist. Then the catcher looked up and noticed Morales still standing by the plate. His second tag ended the frame and the Royals' final chance at a rally. More >
"We needed this win. We need to go play well on this road trip. We try not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but this was a big one because we've had some close games, some frustrating losses, no doubt. To be able to bounce back and get a win in a tight ballgame continues to speak about this club." -- Cash, on finishing a 2-4 homestand with a win
Cash challenged a safe call at third in the third inning, hoping to shut down a Royals rally, but after review, it was confirmed that Butera was safe at third. The catcher scored two pitches later to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals:Johnny Cueto (9-9, 2.94 ERA) will take the ball on Tuesday when the Royals open a three-game series with the Tigers at Kaufman Stadium at 7:10 p.m. CT. After delivering a quality start in each of his first four outings as a Royal, the veteran right-hander has struggled in his last two trips to the hill, allowing 12 earned runs and 21 hits over 11 innings in losses to the Red Sox and Orioles. Cueto is 1-1 with a 2.11 ERA in three starts against the Tigers this year.
Rays: Tampa Bay is off to Baltimore for a critical series against the Orioles, with both teams competing for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Rays will have their ace on the hill Monday, though, as Chris Archer (11-10, 2.88 ERA) squares off against Wei-Yin Chen. The game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.