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Tampa Bay Rays rout Kansas City Royals 8-2

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays brass stood pat at Friday's nonwaiver trade deadline, saying it's confident some of the struggling hitters would turn it around and the starting pitching would become more consistent down the stretch.

A few hours later, the Rays players — for one night, at least — showed they were up to the task in an 8-2 victory over the Royals.

There were a couple of slumping sluggers, Carlos Peña and Pat Burrell, coming through with the kind of performances the Rays need from them in the final few months if they want to climb in the American League East.

There was catcher Dioner Navarro hitting a home run for the first time in almost a month.

And there was left-hander David Price bouncing back with, arguably, the best outing of his rookie season.

Peña said they like that the team stayed intact (other than reliever Joe Nelson getting optioned to Triple A after the game). And the players plan to reward the faith.

"I'm telling you it's in there. These guys are talented. All that stuff is within them," manager Joe Maddon said. "We just have to keep showing confidence. It's all about confidence, and if we can get a couple good games in a row for some of these guys, there's no telling what they're going to do because they've done it before."

Granted, the Royals (40-62) boast the American League's worst record (and worst offense) and Sidney Ponson hadn't won in nearly three months. But the victory could become a confidence-boost, especially for Price, whose performance netted him just his third win in his past nine starts.

Price (4-4) said a key was fastball command and not just throwing strikes, "but quality strikes," resulting in seven innings and just one run.

"I definitely felt good," Price said. "It was just one of those nights where everything goes your way."

Peña and Burrell helped supply the offense with Peña hitting a three-run homer and Burrell picking up a couple of hits (including a rare triple). And rapper Flo Rida provided the postgame entertainment for the Tropicana Field crowd of 26,596 following another victory on a Summer Concert Series night.

More important, the win allowed the Rays (56-47) to stay within 41/2 games of the Red Sox for the wild card and move within 6 of the first-place Yankees.

Peña said he, Burrell and Navarro have talked a lot recently about putting their previous struggles behind them.

"All that matters," Peña said, "is what are you going to do for your team tonight."

Peña's homer in the first inning, just his third in his past 26 starts, hit off the leftfield foul pole for the first time in his career ("not even Little League.")

Burrell hit just the 15th triple of his 10-year career — with Maddon saying they kept the ball.

"Sometimes, it's just about being patient. And all of a sudden, the positive explosion occurs," Maddon said. "And I really believe our guys are going to do that."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith @sptimes.com.

Rays 8

Royals 2

Tampa Bay Rays rout Kansas City Royals 8-2 07/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 7:52pm]
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