ST. PETERSBURG — SS Brad Miller and relievers RHPs Brad Boxberger and Alex Colome took care of the dramatics in Thursday's 3-2 victory over the Royals.
But LHP Drew Smyly deserves credit for getting them started toward the win.
Smyly worked seven solid innings, striking out 10, his outing marred only by one big mistake, a flat cutter that lefty Alex Gordon turned into a two-out two-run homer in the fourth. That was the career-high 23rd Smyly allowed this season, and sixth to a lefty hitter, most in the majors by a lefty pitcher.
But overall it continued Smyly's arc of improvement, a third straight quality start, with a 1-0, 2.37 mark after a brutal 10-start run in which he was 0-7, 7.60 over 10 starts.
"That's three really good starts for Drew, he should be feeling really good about himself right now," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's been through a rough stretch, he's gotten through it, and now he's back to the pitcher that we know we have."
Actually, Smyly — still a rough 3-11, 5.14 overall — said he always there.
"I've never lost confidence in myself," he said. "I think you guys (in the media) have been the ones doubting me and the people reading it. But I know in this lockerroom they continued to support me and have confidence in me. And I'm glad I've been able to turn it around."
After Smyly left, Boxberger got into and then out of a bases loaded mess, striking out dangerous Salvador Perez and Gordon.
Then the Rays, held to one hit up until that point, rallied off RHP Joakim Soria. Logan Forsythe singled, Kevin Kiermaier, continuing to impress in the No. 2 spot, walked and, after 3B Evan Longoria struck out, Miller delivered his 19th homer on a 416-foot blast to right.
Colome made it interesting by allowing singles to two of the first three Royals hitters in the ninth, but recovered for his 26th save.
CATCHING ON: The Rays made another move to improve their catching corps in claiming Seminole High's Bobby Wilson off waivers from Texas and sending Curt Casali to Triple A.
Wilson, 33, started last season with the Rays before being demoted and claimed on waivers by the Rangers. He finished the season in Texas and re-signed there this season, was traded to Detroit at the end of spring training and then back to the Rangers in May, but, after hitting .250 with three homers, was designated for assignment following Monday's acquisition of Jonathan Lucroy.
"I'm excited about coming back home and playing for this organization," Wilson said via text. "It's a great group of guys who play the game the right way. I loved my time in Texas and want to thank the players, coaches, front office and ownership for the opportunity they gave me."
Casali, after an 0-for-2 Thursday, was hitting .168. He joins Hank Conger, the other catcher on the opening day roster, in the minors.
QUITE THE CATCH: Kiermaier provided the defensive highlight again with a spectacular running and leaping catch of an Eric Hosmer blast to end the fifth.
Kiermaier broke back to his right then at the last second turned and leaped to his left to catch the ball in front of the centerfield wall. Smyly threw his arms up on the mound, Hosmer shook his head in frustration, then mouthed a few words (one not suitable for publication) and tipped his cap in admiration.
"I know how hard Hosmer can hit it, but I was surprised at how much it carried," Kiermaier said. "I felt like I took a funky little route to it, but the balls hit right at you and over your head can be really tough to read. It wasn't a textbook play, but it went in my glove and that's all that matters."
TOOLS TIME: Kiermaier was voted the second best defensive outfielder behind Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. in Baseball America's annual Best Tools poll of AL managers. Newly acquired Matt Duffy was ranked the third best defensive third baseman in the NL.
MISCELLANY: OF Desmond Jennings was still sore and apparently limited from fouling a ball off his left knee Tuesday. … The Rays has lost their previous nine one-run games, last coming out ahead on June 15. … RHP Chase Whitley (Tommy John surgery) makes his fourth rehab start tonight, pitching for Double-A Montgomery. … Royals DH Kendrys Morales played Thursday after appealing a one-game suspension for getting ejected Tuesday and his actions afterward. … The Royals lost for just the second time in 42 games when leading after seven innings.