ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t been losing much lately, and certainly not like this.
Salvador Perez hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth inning and the Kansas City Royals beat the Rays 5-4 Wednesday night. Tampa Bay lost for just the third time in 12 games and lost a chance to move within eight games of first place for the first time since May 28.
“This one was bad,” Rays reliever Joel Peralta said. “It really hurts.”
Kirby Yates entered with runners on first and third with one out after Peralta had given up a leadoff single to Jarrod Dyson and a one-out walk to Eric Hosmer. Perez’s towering shot off Yates (0-1) dropped over the wall in the left-field corner.
“I didn’t think he hit it that far, but he hit it pretty good. I was hoping it might go foul,” said Yates, a rookie who was used for the first time in a major-league save situation. “It stings a little bit. It’s a game we could have won and we needed to win.”
Concerned about overusing relievers Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger, Rays manager Joe Maddon used his bullpen unconventionally.
“I’ve talked extensively about 25 people being responsible for us because we’re not going to get back into it by overloading somebody,” Maddon said. “I felt good about Peralta, but when it wasn’t happening I felt good about Yates. He’s got great stuff. He put a pitch into a bad spot and we lost the game.”
Aaron Crow (4-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. Greg Holland got three outs for his 24th save.
The second-place Royals return home Thursday night to begin a four-game series against AL Central-leading Detroit, which has a 4 1/2-game lead.
Rookie Kevin Kiermaier went 4 for 4 with a grand slam for the Rays, who lost two of three in the series.
After starter Yordano Ventura walked light-hitting Jose Molina to load the bases with two outs in the fourth, Kiermaier sent a shot into the right-field stands to give Tampa Bay a 4-2 lead. But they never scored again and left 11 men on base.
“I understand we lost by a run on a three-run homer in the ninth inning,” said Maddon, “but we left a lot of chicken on the bone and you just can’t do that stuff.”
Hosmer hit a solo homer with two outs in the first off Alex Cobb that put the Royals up 1-0. It was the first time Cobb pitched against Kansas City since being struck near the right ear June 15 last year by a liner hit by Hosmer.
Cobb, sidelined for two months due to problems that included a concussion and symptoms of vertigo, allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Ventura gave up four runs, five hits and four walks in five innings. He struck out five.
The Royals loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, but scored just once to take a 2-0 lead on Raul Ibanez’s grounder. Kansas City failed to score with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh when reliever Grant Balfour got a pop fly from Perez.
NOTES: Tampa Bay SS Yunel Escobar (shoulder) could return Friday. … The Rays are off Thursday before starting a three-game series Friday night against Toronto.