Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays complete four-game sweep of Kansas City Royals

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays don't know what will happen on their upcoming six-game road trip to New York and Boston, which third baseman Evan Longoria calls a "make-or-break stretch" and "pretty definitive of what happens the rest of the year."

"It's huge," veteran Johnny Damon said.

But considering their large uphill climb to the postseason — the Rays trail the wild-card-leading Yankees by 8 1/2 and the AL East-leading Red Sox by 9 1/2 — they couldn't have asked for more of a momentum booster than a four-game sweep of the Royals, clinched with Thursday's 4-1 win in front of 13,942 at Tropicana Field.

Energized by Wednesday night's historic ninth-inning comeback, Tampa Bay displayed the kind of baseball that it believes can get it back in the race, from solid pitching to sparkling defense, while blending timely hitting with aggressiveness on the bases. The Rays (63-54), who picked up their first four-game sweep at the Trop in more than six years, have won 10 of their past 14.

"We've gotten back to playing the way that we need to play to win games," Longoria said. "We talk about it all the time; we're not a team that's going to go out and hit three three-run home runs and win a game like that. But it's pretty exciting to see us playing up to our potential right now."

It all started with right-hander Jeff Niemann, who continued his impressive roll since coming off the disabled list in early June (6-0, 2.17 ERA in nine starts).

He wasn't as sharp as he has been, tying a season high with nine hits (all singles), but he battled through 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

Niemann got arguably the game's biggest out in the sixth, after loading the bases with two outs for Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon. Niemann threw a 2-and-2 fastball by Gordon, who checked his swing and was called out.

"That," Niemann said, "was the game."

Niemann credited the defense. Second baseman Sean Rodriguez came up with two great plays, and shortstop Elliot Johnson made a rocket throw from the hole to get Johnny Giavotella in the fourth. Johnson did so again after Casey Kotchman started a first-shortstop-pitcher double play in the eighth, and catcher Kelly Shoppach threw out first baseman Eric Hosmer trying to steal second in the seventh.

"Our defense was spectacular," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "If you're a baseball purist and were not entertained by our defense tonight, then there's something wrong with you. That was special to watch."

So was the stand-up, bloop triple by Rays centerfielder Desmond Jennings in the fifth. Jennings hustled around when his shallow fly ball bounced in front of a diving Melky Cabrera in center. Jennings scored on Longoria's sacrifice fly.

"An incredible feat," Maddon said.

The rest of the offense was supplied by rightfielder Ben Zobrist, who ripped a two-out, two-run triple in the third, and Rodriguez, who slapped a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the eighth.

It all set the stage for the upcoming AL East showdowns, starting tonight in Yankee Stadium. Maddon has talked about making up one game a week in the standings, saying "It's up to us," as they face New York and Boston a combined 18 times in the next two months.

"Now we're in a spot where we're pretty close to striking distance, and if we don't go out and perform well in these two road series, it's going to be tough to dig ourselves out of that hole," Longoria said. "If we can find a way to win some games on the road against these two teams that are in front of us, it's going to make for a pretty interesting September."

Rays 4

Royals 1

Tampa Bay Rays complete four-game sweep of Kansas City Royals 08/11/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2011 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs mull options at right tackle as Dotson awaits MRI


    Right tackle Demar Dotson, the Bucs' most experienced offensive lineman, will undergo an MRI on his injured groin Saturday, three weeks before the season opener.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneer Demar Dotson, offensive tackle, brought his coffee and breakfast to One Buc Place, 7/31/15, as he reported to training camp.
  2. For starters: Rays vs. Mariners, with another new look


    Having lost 11 of their last 14 games and dropping to a season-worst four games under .500 at 60-64, the Rays continue to search for ways to get out of their extended offensive slump.

    And with the M's starting LHP Ariel Miranda today, that means another new look to the lineup, which includes having struggling …

  3. Chasing 125: Bucs hope to hit rushing goal more often


    Ever so often, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pulls back the curtain a bit and shares some of the stats that matter to him most as a coach.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
  4. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005


    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  5. Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Drouin, Tim Beckham are coming for revenge


    Forget the Three Tenors.

    Make it the Three Terrors.

    The 2017 Unfulfilled Expectations Tour is about to hit Tampa Bay.

    From left, former Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, ex-Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and former Rays infielder Tim Beckham. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times; DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times; Getty Images]