ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier did the best he could putting the ball in play on a full-count pitch in the ninth inning from a tough lefty, then racing toward first.
It wasn't until his teammates started celebrating that he realized Jake Bauers had scored on a grounder to first as Ryan O'Hearn bounced the throw home to allow the Rays to complete a pair of sweeps of the Royals with a 4-3 walkoff win Thursday.
"I asked Jake, 'How in the heck did you score?' '' Kiermaier said. "I might have used a couple other words. 'How did you score?' He's like, 'He bounced the throw.' I'm like, 'Oh, thank the Lord.' Just glad to see that game end. No one wants to play extras. … We're just trying to keep winning. We're having a lot of fun right now. We're just going to try to keep it going. We know we have the Red Sox coming back into town, and we'll have our work cut out for us. But we're ready to play whoever, whenever.''
The Rays are indeed playing well, winning their fifth straight to improve to a season-high six games over .500 at 67-61, completing both a four-game series sweep and a seven-game season sweep of the hapless Royals, who lost their 90th. The Rays' eighth walkoff win matches Oakland for the AL high.
Kiermaier wasn't the only relieved Ray.
Bauers was, too, for starting the winning rally with a leadoff walk and going to third on C.J. Cron's broken-bat single, as well as rapping two hits earlier to end a 1-for-34 skid and feel good about contributing to the win.
"Oh man, I don't think you can put it into words,'' he said.
Also Willy Adames, who was called out in the seventh on a replay reversal for an illegal slide into second, voiding the go-ahead run the Rays would've gotten with Kiermaier beating out a double play.
RHP Tyler Glasnow, working on his 25th birthday, gave the Rays a good but not great outing, allowing three runs over five innings but throwing 96 pitches. "I felt good, some innings better than others,'' he said.
RHP Diego Castillo will be the opener Friday ahead of LHP Jalen Beeks, who will be facing his potent former Red Sox mates again. Beeks threw four shutout innings Sunday in Boston, but doing so again might be considerably more challenging. "I don't think it benefits anybody when you're facing the Red Sox twice,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I really don't. That's not to make an excuse for Jalen Beeks. I don't care if it was Blake Snell or (Nationals ace) Max Scherzer or whoever. When you're facing that lineup twice in five days, I don't think it's going to bode well for the pitcher as much as the hitter.''
SS Wander Franco, the 17-year-old prospect who has scouts drooling, was named Appalachian League player of the year, having hit .374 with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and a 1.090 OPS in his first 55 games for rookie-level Princeton, including hits in 47 of the games. … Two-way prospect Brendan McKay is slated to start for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs on Saturday in Clearwater during the weekend series with the Threshers. McKay is 3-2, 3.30 in 10 games on the mound, though hitting .217 with six homers, 39 RBIs and a .738 OPS.
• The Rays logged their first four-game series sweep since September 2013 vs. Baltimore, and their first season series sweep against an AL team, going 7-0 vs. the Royals. Their only season sweep with multiple series came in 2013 against the Marlins, going 4-0.
• OF Tommy Pham was out of the lineup again as the right ring finger he dislocated Tuesday remained sore, though he was able to take some swings. He hopes to return Friday.
• The Rays and Red Sox will wear specially designed caps, socks and jerseys, with their nicknames on the back, as part of the second annual players weekend, and they will be allowed to use different colored cleats and other equipment.