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Gutsy rally helps Rays avoid cellar

At a time of the season when you want a little more, the Devil Rays on Tuesday night came up with just enough.

Tampa Bay beat the Royals 7-4 in front of an announced crowd of 8,588 at Tropicana Field to snap a three-game losing streak and pick up a game on the Blue Jays in the race to avoid last place in the AL East.

A five-run eighth did the trick. Rocco Baldelli led off with a home run to cut the deficit to 4-3. Jorge Cantu's one-out double to left-centerfield drove in Tino Martinez, who reached on a hustling double, and B.J. Upton, who had a hustling infield hit.

Carl Crawford's two-out single drove in Cantu, and Jose Cruz's fourth hit drove home Crawford as Tampa Bay snapped a five-game home losing streak and moved two games ahead of Toronto.

The worst decision made by Kansas City manager Tony Pena was removing starter Zack Greinke. One of baseball's most highly regarded young pitchers stifled the Rays for 6 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts, zero walks and one hit batter.

The right-hander retired six in a row with three strikeouts before allowing Cruz's single with two outs in the seventh. Dennys Reyes relieved and struck out Aubrey Huff to end the inning.

But then the wheels came off as Reyes, Shawn Camp and Jaime Cerda could not hold the Rays down in the eighth.

No one could hold down Cruz, who had three singles and his 21st home run, which gave the Rays a 2-1 lead in the third. Martinez made two full-out dives to snare ground balls for outs, and reliever Danys Baez got his 28th save and 17th straight, the longest streak in the majors.

Kansas City tied the score at 2 in the fifth inning on David DeJesus' home run off starter Rob Bell and took a 3-2 lead with an efficient sixth. Calvin Pickering led off with a double, went to third on Desi Relaford's sacrifice bunt and scored on Alberto Castillo's single.

It was 4-2 in the seventh after Matt Stairs drove home Angel Berroa with a one-out single. Berroa led off by reaching second on shortstop Upton's throwing error. The run was unearned after reliever Mark Hendrickson retired the next two.

_ DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times staff writer