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Rays rally, but Royals reply

Tampa Bay ties the score in the top of the ninth, then loses in the bottom 2-1.

Diving stops in the outfield. A leaping catch at the wall. A dominating pitching performance. And a bottom-of-the-ninth rally.

The Royals showed the Devil Rays just how slim the margin between victory and defeat can be Friday, rallying for a 2-1 win.

Having been shut out for eight innings thanks to the Royals' stellar defense and strong pitching by Blake Stein, the Rays rallied to tie in the ninth. But the Royals came right back to win it, Joe Randa singling in the decisive run off Esteban Yan with one out and the bases loaded.

"I just had the bad luck tonight," Yan said.

There wasn't much to the winning rally, but it was enough. Carlos Beltran slapped a one-out single between first and second, then Mike Sweeney, who earlier extended his hitting streak to 25 games, rapped a ball between second and third, Beltran taking third when leftfielder Terrell Lowery slipped.

"They just happened to get some ground balls," catcher Mike DiFelice said. "Late in the game like that, you're going to hug the lines because you don't want any doubles to go by, and the guy (Sweeney) hits a routine ground ball that goes for a hit instead of a double play."

The Rays walked Jermaine Dye to load the bases, then Randa slapped an 0-and-2 pitch from Yan over shortstop for the winning hit.

"He probably overthrew going for the strikeout and he got it up in an area where he could hit it," manager Larry Rothschild said.

Said Yan: "I was trying to get it to the floor and it didn't get there."

It was the Rays' 15th one-run defeat of the season, but the night was not a total loss. Wilson Alvarez looked sharp during an eight-inning outing, the Rays turned four double plays to run their AL-leading total to 141, and they rallied to tie in the ninth, Tony Graffanino driving in the tying run with an infield single, though two others were left on base.

Alvarez, who had four wins in his past five decisions, scattered seven singles while throwing 92 pitches over eight innings, allowing a run in the second on a two-out hit by Jeremy Giambi.

"I thought he was excellent," Rothschild said. "He really limited his pitches, and that's why he was able to go eight innings in his second start back (from the disabled list). He got his breaking ball over really well, he moved his fastball in and out. He really fell into a nice groove. He was outstanding."

The tough-luck outcome was nothing new to Alvarez. He has allowed one run in 15 innings against the Royals this season without a win to show for it, and is 5-8 lifetime despite a 2.55 ERA in 16 outings.

"It's tough every time I pitch against them," he said.

Stein, acquired from Oakland in the July 31 trade of Kevin Appier, pitched very well, allowing just three hits through seven innings, one a bunt single by Dave Martinez in the first.

"We had our chances to win the game," Rothschild said. "They had a guy who had struggled a lot of this year on the mound and we let him settle in. Those are guys you should hit early and hit them hard before they settle in and find a grove."

True, the Rays did have their chances.

They ran themselves out of a shot to tie in the third, when Miguel Cairo was gunned down at home trying to score from first. Rightfielder Dye made a diving stop when Martinez's sharp single took a wicked bounce, then recorded his AL-high 14th outfield assist by firing to shortstop Rey Sanchez, who relayed the ball home.

Third-base coach Greg Riddoch took the blame for misreading the play.

"The ball took an errant hop and I thought it got by him," Riddoch said.

The Rays lost a chance for more runs in the fourth, when centerfielder Beltran raced back and leaped high at the wall to deny Jose Guillen of at least a double, and possibly a two-run home run.

"It was out," Guillen said. "I thought it was over. I hit it well. He made a nice play and there was nothing I could do about it."

Dye struck again in the seventh, making a diving catch to rob DiFelice of what would have been a game-tying single. With Graffanino on second with two outs, DiFelice looped a ball toward the rightfield line, but Dye came racing over and made the catch just inside the foul line.

"It was a good battle to at least give ourselves a chance to keep playing," DiFelice said. "Those things happen."