KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Rays made a good first impression to start the second half.
Coming from four runs down, they beat the Royals 8-7 Friday, riding two-run homers from resurgent Pat Burrell and recovered Evan Longoria.
A night that started bad and looked worse as it went, with James Shields struggling and with the two teams the Rays (49-41) are chasing — the Red Sox and Yankees — winning, turned out pretty good.
The Rays won a one-run game. They won a game against a team they should beat. And they won on the road.
"A trifecta," manager Joe Maddon said.
"I really believe our guys are motivated to get this thing done. And to come back like that was really, that was a pretty big moment. And it is a great way to start the second half."
It actually was similar to the way they started the second half last season, when Ben Zobrist hit a late homer off Toronto's A.J. Burnett to lead the Rays from behind to ahead in what turned out to be one of the biggest wins.
"Tonight was the story of last year," Shields said. "These guys did a great job of coming back, and I'm proud of them. We've been fighting all year to get this kind of win."
"Those are the things that we're going to have to do," Longoria said. "We're going to have to win games late, and we're going to have to win on the road.
"This 10-game road trip could make or break our season. I think we need to look at it with a lot of urgency. … We have to go .500 or better. Things could go downhill in a hurry on this trip. I think we got off to a pretty good start."
Maddon said there was a lot to like, even from the way Shields, despite giving up 11 more hits and a season-high seven runs (including five in the third), kept them close. But more so in the quality of the at-bats, which he claimed to see signs of during Thursday's workout, and the intensity they showed on a cool night at Kauffman Stadium.
Down 6-2 after three, they kept scrapping the way Maddon loves them to. They had scored twice in the third, on key hits by B.J. Upton, All-Star MVP Carl Crawford and Burrell, then twice in the fourth inning, taking advantage of a dropped popup and a passed ball.
Longoria had the biggest hit, knocking a two-out, 3-and-2 changeup from Juan Cruz over the leftfield wall. And he was candid enough to admit it didn't make up for the disappointment of missing Tuesday's All-Star Game due to an infection on his right ring finger.
"Obviously if you get an opportunity to start an All-Star Game it's a pretty big deal to miss it," Longoria said, "but like I said then, priority one has got to be the Rays and our team and the second half of the season. So it feels good to help the team win today."
Burrell's homer, another sign of his recent warming at the plate, was nearly as big, bringing the Rays from 7-4 to 7-6 in the seventh inning.
"It's big to come out of the All-Star break like this," Burrell said. "You know everybody looks forward to the break and it's nice to get away, but the problem is everybody is a little out of synch when they get back. And it looked like it was going to be one of those nights where we weren't going to have enough. Fortunately we got back in the game and got back on top."