KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The power has ebbed and flowed at times this season, but the Rays are hoping to be able to turn it on during the final month.
Wednesday's final game of August provided a good sign as homers by Steven Souza Jr. and Logan Morrison provided the margin in a 5-3 victory over the Royals, and their first series win at Kauffman Stadium since 2009.
The Rays had taken a 3-0 lead in the third, including an Adeiny Hechavarria homer, only so see RHP Jake Odorizzi, in another inconsistent and abbreviated start, give it right back on a three-run blast by Whit Merrifield.
But the Rays flexed their muscle in the fifth.
First Souza, delivering his 29th overall, 12th since the All-Star break and second off a lefty after his first 25 were against right-handers. Then Morrison, playing in his hometown with friends and relatives in the stands, launching his team-high 33rd overall, and fourth in four days.
"To go up there and do something with the two homers was crucial,'' Souza said. "They're a team that prides themselves on momentum, and running with it. We knew we had to fight to get it back.''
The win improved the Rays to 67-68 and at least kept them within 3½ games of the second American League wild card, as they have taken two of three in both St. Louis and Kansas City, and head next to Chicago.
"Win series,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "If we win the series, we're going to put ourselves at the end of this thing in a pretty good spot.''.
Odorizzi had two messy innings and three clean ones, allowing three runs, but when he opened the sixth allowing a single on his 84th pitch, Cash decided he had seen enough. Steve Cishek worked the sixth and seventh, Tommy Hunter the eighth and Alex Colome worked around a one-out single in the ninth for his majors-most 40th save.
Quite a catch
SS Adeiny Hechavarria might be too expensive, with an arbitration-driven hike from his current $4.25 million salary, and/or, with Matt Duffy slated to return, somewhat expendable for the Rays to keep next year. But he has turned out to be quite a catch, making another hard-to-define highlight play in the first Wednesday. Hechavarria leapt high to snare a line drive, then as he landed on his back foot, flipped the ball over his other shoulder to double off the runner at second. "I haven't seen too many shortstops that can cover ground quite like he can, and complete plays," Cash said after Tuesday's game. "If he gets his glove on the ball, generally, the guys is out."
3B Evan Longoria set a personal best by going 47 games without an error until his Tuesday night misplay, one better than his previous record. But Longoria also set a personal worst as he has now gone ss a career most 103 at-bats without a homer, , as well as 26 games (matching his career record).
Now starting …
Rookie OF Cesar Puello, claimed on waivers Aug. 19, made his first start after three pinch-hit appearances, going 0-for-3.
• The Rays likely will announce a few of their callups for Friday's roster expansion today, including C Curt Casali and a couple of relievers. OF Mallex Smith and INF Trevor Plouffe are other possibilities.
• RHP Jake Faria (abdominal strain) said a 30-pitch bullpen session at the Trop went well. He hopes to return in a week or two.
• The Rays donated the old Trop AstroTurf to the city of Clearwater, which will install it on a practice field at Jack Russell Stadium.
• Having today off in Chicago allows LHP Dan Jennings, acquired July 27 from the White Sox, the chance to tie up some loose ends, such as going by his former apartment.