RAYS 3 ROYALS 2
W: Boxberger (1-0) L: Soria (4-5) S: Colome (26)
ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays were hoping to salvage a split of the four-game series against the defending World Series champs on Thursday during a 12:10 matinee. With starter Drew Smyly on the hill coming off a win over the Yankees back on Saturday night and two consecutive quality starts under his belt, they had to like their chances. The Royals countered with righty Ian Kennedy who’s had his struggles this year, tied for the MLB lead in HR allowed with 26 coming into Thursday’s ballgame against a Rays team that was no stranger to the long ball.
Smyly was masterful for most of his outing, especially through the first few innings. The one bad pitch that he paid for came in the top of the fourth inning when Alex Gordon crushed his eighth homer of the season into the right field seats to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. Kennedy matched his opponent pitch for pitch holding the Rays hitless into the fourth inning before Evan Longoria doubled off him with one out. Brad Miller followed with a walk but nothing came of the two-on, one-out situation as the Rays came up empty.
Ian Kennedy would be just a tick better for the Royals. He’d be pulled in the bottom of the seventh, however, for lefty Matt Strahm after one-hitting the Rays through six-plus innings. After Steven Souza Jr reached on an E5 to lead off, Ned Yost made the call to his ‘pen.
“Kennedy was tough,” Rays Manager Kevin Cash said post-game. “He located his fastball at the top of the zone and down and away about as good as you could.”
The Rays would go to the bullpen in the eighth after seven masterful innings by Smyly that included 10 more strikeouts to his season, mostly coming on a nasty curveball that most Royals hitters were out in front of most the ballgame. Brad Boxberger would take over for Smyly who threw 95 pitches for his third straight quality start.
Boxberger would give up two quick hits to Alcides Escobar and Cheslor Cuthbert to lead off the eighth before getting the first out. An intentional walk to Kendrys Morales followed. The next six pitches would result in two strikeouts for Boxberger as he carved up two dangerous hitters in Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, who’d taken Smyly deep earlier in the game.
Joakim Soria took over on the hill for the Royals in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Rays got right to work off him. Forsythe would single and Kiermaier followed with a walk bringing up Longoria with the score just 2-0. After an eight-pitch battle w Soria, Longo would strike out making way…for Brad Miller. The Rays single-season record setter for home runs by a short stop would continue to destroy baseballs hitting a three-run bomb (his 19th) into the right field seats to put the Rays in the lead, 3-2.
“Smyly pitched great,” Miller said post-game about the Rays starter. “We hadn’t really rewarded him when he’d pitched great. The way we got him some there late and didn’t give up was pretty awesome.”
Handing the baseball to Alex Colome in the top of the ninth has proved to be, well – pretty reliable for the Rays this season. Their lone All Star in San Diego last month made things interesting in the ninth allowing Kansas City to get the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position before finally slamming the door on the four-game series and a split with the champs.
“Exciting win. That was awesome.” Cash said post-game. “Can’t say enough about Drew Smyly. Obviously Brad Miller, stars of the ballgame.”
The Rays welcome in the Minnesota Twins Friday for a three-game weekend series at the Trop to finish off the 10-game home stand.
Rays SS Brad Miller on his potentially being moved to 1B: “I’ve shown them all year how valuable I am. At the end of the day, I gotta go out and play. That’s all that matters.”
Rays SP Drew Smyly on his season: “I’ve never lost confidence in myself. I think you guys have been the ones doubting me and people reading it.”
The Rays claimed C Bobby Wilson from the Texas Rangers after the game Thursday and optioned C Curt Casali to Durham. Wilson was with the Rays to start the 2015 season.
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