For the first time since June 30 - yes, JUNE THIRTIETH - the Kansas City Royals have put together back-to-back victories. Yordano Ventura battled rough command all day and ultimately left with his team trailing, but a clutch, go-ahead home run by Salvador Perez in the late innings lifted Kansas City to a narrow road win.
In the first inning, a two-out rally started when Lorenzo Cain singled with two outs. It was Cain's first hit since returning from the disabled list, and he promptly stole second base. Then, Eric Hosmer ripped a grounder back up the middle to score him, giving the Royals an early 1-0 lead.
Ventura had a lead to work with, and at least early on, he made it count. It was clear from the beginning that he didn't have his best stuff. However, he wiggled his way out of trouble in the third and fourth innings, working out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the former, and a two-on, one-out spot in the latter.
In the fifth, though, the Rays broke through off Ventura, partially due to a pair of gaffes by Ventura himself. Logan Forsythe worked a walk to lead off the frame, and he moved to second on a wild pitch. Then, Kevin Kiermaier bunted back to the pitcher, and even though Ventura had no play, he whipped around and fired a throw to first base anyway. Predictably, the throw went flying down the right-field line, scoring Forsythe and tying the score at one.
Later in the inning, Desmond Jennings broke the tie by collecting an RBI ground-out, scoring Kiermaier. Just minutes after scoring its first run of the series, Tampa took a 2-1 lead.
That score held until the top of the seventh inning. Eric Hosmer led off the frame by punching an opposite-field single down the left-field line. After Kendrys Morales was called out on a borderline strike three call, Perez stepped to the plate and delivered the big blow. He destroyed Xavier Cedeno's offering over the left-field wall for his 16th home run of the year. The Royals were back in front, 3-2.
Due to a high pitch count, Ventura's outing was limited to five innings. Chris Young, who pitched a scoreless sixth, opened the seventh by putting the first two Rays on base. However, he got Evan Longoria to pop up, and then Ned Yost called on Matt Strahm for relief. Strahm, the left-handed heat-thrower who was making just his second career appearance, stole the show in St. Petersburg. He struck out both hitters he faced with 95+ mph fastballs, delighting his family, who was shown on TV jumping up and down with every pitch.
Joakim Soria handled the eighth inning, but he made things difficult as well. Corey Dickerson doubled down the left-field line to lead off the frame, but Soria rebounded by retiring the next three hitters and escaping the frame.
Ventura's final line: 5.0 innings, six hits, two runs, four walks, and two strikeouts. He threw 103 pitches, and he received a no-decision.
Kelvin Herrera worked the ninth for his third save of the season.
Young (3-8) earned the win with 1.1 innings of scoreless relief. Cedeno (3-3) took the loss. The Rays offense is very bad - they've scored two runs in 18 innings this series.
This is the first time that the Royals won a game not started by Danny Duffy since July 20. It's the first time since June 16 that Kansas City won a game with Ventura starting.
The Royals are 51-55. First-place Cleveland lost, so Kansas City trimmed its deficit in the AL Central to 10 games.