Kansas City at Tampa Bay

Scoreboard
Kansas City (39-48)000000110243
Tampa Bay (53-32) «30103004x11120

Rays 11, Royals 2

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays surged to first place without the offensive production they're accustomed to getting from Carlos Pena. Now that he's back in the middle of the lineup, the AL East leaders are counting on him to help them stay on top.

Pena homered for the first time in a month and drove in five runs Friday night, supporting a strong pitching performance by Edwin Jackson and pacing an 11-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

The Rays slugger spent most of June on the disabled list with a broken left index finger. He returned from a 19-game layoff last weekend at Pittsburgh, however his bat had been relatively quiet during his first six games off the DL.

"I feel great. My finger is feeling a lot better every day," Pena said after going 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .227 with 12 homers and 43 RBI.

"Any time you can contribute, your confidence gets a boost. That's obviously what we all need. When you're confident up there, good things happen. You start expecting good things to happen."

Pena hit .282 with 46 homers and 121 RBI last season, when he was the AL Comeback Player of the Year. His average has not been above .250 this season, and Friday was only his eighth multi-hit game this year.

"It's a nice start. You always like to see that. It's huge to get him back," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I've been saying this all along that, as we get deeper into the season, that there's a lot of guys who haven't had their typical season, and they will."

Jackson (5-6) matched his win total for last season, limiting the Royals to David DeJesus' first-inning single and Mark Grudzielanek's solo homer in the seventh before giving up two singles and an unearned run in the eighth.

Tampa Bay won for the ninth time in 10 games, improved baseball's best record to 53-32, and maintained a three-game lead in the division over second-place Boston, which beat the New York Yankees 6-4.

The Rays are a franchise-record 21 games over .500. Before this year, they had never been more than four games over at any point in a season.

The Royals have lost five of seven. They contributed to Tampa Bay's fifth straight win with three errors, three walks and a wild pitch that led to runs.

"We made it real easy," Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said. "They've got a good club, obviously, with the best record. But we did a lot of things really poorly that made their job a little easier."

Pena's first homer since June 3 was a three-run shot off Brian Bannister (7-8) that made it 7-0 in the fifth. He also had a RBI single in the first and a sacrifice fly in the third against the Kansas City starter, who allowed seven runs and eight hits in five innings.

Jackson didn't get his first win in 2007 until June 24. The 24-year-old right-hander was 1-9 after losing to the Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 4 and finished 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA in 31 starts.

Thanks to a pair of double-play grounders, Jackson faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings. Grudzielanek hit his third homer of the season with one out in the seventh.

DeJesus led off the game with a single, extending his hitting streak to a career-best 16 games before Grudzielanek grounded into a double play. DeJesus drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, when Alex Gordon hit into an inning-ending double play.

B.J. Upton and Cliff Floyd had sacrifice flies during Tampa Bay's three-run first. Pena's sacrifice fly made it 4-0, then the slugger's first homer since returning from a stint on the disabled list with a broken left index finger blew it open.

"It seemed like every ball they hit found a hole," Bannister said. "It seemed like every ball we hit found a glove."

The Rays added four runs in the eighth, two of them on Carl Crawford's third single.

Jackson allowed two runs and four hits, including eighth-inning singles to Mark Teahen and Ross Gload. Teahen scored from third base on a passed ball.

Notes

Attendance was announced as 16,830, down from the 33,768 the Rays averaged for their three-game sweep of Boston this week. ... Rays SS Reid Brignac made his major league debut and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. ... Tampa Bay is the only team since 1900 to have the best record in the majors on July 4 after finishing with the worst mark in baseball the previous season. The 1967 Cubs are the only other team that's held it after July 4, holding the the best record as late as July 24. ... Kansas City OF Joey Gathright sat out for the second straight game with a sore left shoulder. ... Royals RHP Leo Nunez (strained right lat) could be cleared this weekend to begin a minor league rehab assignment. ... Rays RHP Al Reyes (right shoulder tendinitis) will pitch a simulated game on Saturday.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

C. Crawford
AB 5
R 3
H 3
HR 0
RBI 2
Tampa Bay

C. Pena
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 1
RBI 5
 

Related Video

December 22, 2014
Chargers at Chiefs Preview (2:48)
December 9, 2014
Alex Smith joins Jim Rome
(4:26)
December 22, 2014
Saints at Buccaneers Preview
(3:06)
December 23, 2014
Jim Rome: Dez Bryant's contract
(3:09)
Kansas City Royals
David DeJesus, CF3010100 .321
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B4111002 .314
Alex Gordon, 3B4000001 .258
Jose Guillen, LF3000010 .277
Billy Butler, DH3000000 .271
Mark Teahen, RF3110000 .252
Ross Gload, 1B3010000 .261
John Buck, C3000001 .243
Mike Aviles, SS3000011 .283
Totals2924112  
Batting
HR - Mark Grudzielanek (3, Jackson)
RBI - Mark Grudzielanek (19)
Team LOB - 1
Fielding
E - John Buck 2 (3, Throwing), Robinson Tejeda (1, Misplayed grounder)
Kansas City Royals
Brian Bannister (L,7-8) 5876161 5.15
Jimmy Gobble 2322110 7.54
Robinson Tejeda 1121100 5.91
HBP - Iwamura (by Jimmy Gobble)
WP - Robinson Tejeda (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Brian Bannister 102-62, Jimmy Gobble 43-24, Robinson Tejeda 33-18
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brian Bannister 1-8, Jimmy Gobble 1-4, Robinson Tejeda 2-2
Batters Faced - Brian Bannister 24, Jimmy Gobble 11, Robinson Tejeda 6
Tampa Bay Rays
Akinori Iwamura, 2B4111000 .275
Carl Crawford, LF5332012 .282
B.J. Upton, CF3211101 .278
Carlos Pena, 1B4225010 .227
Evan Longoria, 3B5030001 .281
Cliff Floyd, DH2001011 .241
   a- Willy Aybar, PH-DH1000001 .257
Dioner Navarro, C4120011 .315
Eric Hinske, RF3000011 .260
   b- Jonny Gomes, PH-RF0100100 .202
Reid Brignac, SS3100121 .000
Totals3411121037  
a-popped out for Floyd in the 7th
b-walked for Hinske in the 8th
Batting
2B - Akinori Iwamura (14, Bannister), Evan Longoria (22, Bannister)
HR - Carlos Pena (12, Bannister)
SF - B.J. Upton (5), Carlos Pena (4), Cliff Floyd (1)
RBI - Akinori Iwamura (25), Carl Crawford 2 (46), B.J. Upton (42), Carlos Pena 5 (43), Cliff Floyd (16)
2-OUT RBI - Carlos Pena 3 (10)
SB - Carl Crawford (22, 3rd base off Bannister/Buck), B.J. Upton (26, 3rd base off Bannister/Buck)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Jackson-Iwamura-Brignac-Pena, Pena-Brignac-Jackson
PB - Dioner Navarro (4)
Tampa Bay Rays
Edwin Jackson (W,5-6) 8421121 4.08
Jason Hammel 1000000 4.88
Pitches-Strikes - Edwin Jackson 109-71, Jason Hammel 15-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Edwin Jackson 6-14, Jason Hammel 2-1
Batters Faced - Edwin Jackson 27, Jason Hammel 3
Game Information
Attendance - 16830
Game Time - 2:50
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Gary Cederstrom, First Base - Field Culbreth, Second Base - Jim Reynolds, Third Base - Tim Timmons