Royals 2, Devil Rays 0

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Jimmy Gobble looked lost, almost frantic.

Here he was, about to head out on his first major league road trip—still in his game underwear and unsure what to put in his bag. And there sat veteran pitcher Jose Lima at the next locker, nipping at the rookie’s heels nonstop.

“You got 10 minutes. You better not be late. I’m telling you, you better not be late,” Lima told the Kansas City Royals’ rookie left-hander. “I’m keeping you straight, bro. I’m keeping you on track.”

Then, as soon as Gobble was out of earshot and headed for the showers, Lima shook his head and said one word: “Unbelievable.”

Lima meant it as a compliment.

Gobble, called up from Double-A Wichita on Saturday when Lima went down with a groin strain, saved his nervousness for the clubhouse. He was in command on the mound, pitching into the seventh inning in his major league debut as the Kansas City Royals beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2-0 on Sunday.

“When you see a young guy pitch like he did, with the heart that he had, it gives you goosebumps,” Lima said. “That kid’s got some guts.”

Displaying a solid, 90 mph fastball and a willingness to throw breaking pitches inside, Gobble (1-0) helped the Royals stay atop the AL Central despite being outhit 6-4.

“The ball gets on you pretty quick, but the main thing he did was hit his spots,” Tampa Bay’s Damian Rolls said.

Aaron Guiel hit Kansas City’s second inside-the-park homer of the series, and Joe Randa was 2-for-4 with a home run as the Royals spoiled a complete-game effort by Tampa Bay’s Jeremi Gonzalez.

Angel Berroa hit an inside-the-park homer Friday in a 9-6 loss.

Gobble, who threw his first pitch for a strike to Carl Crawford, gave up six hits in six-plus innings with three strikeouts and one walk. He was replaced by Curtis Leskanic after giving up a leadoff double to Rolls.

“I was a little nervous up until that first pitch,” Gobble said. “After that, you just have to get into the mind-set of competing.”

Leskanic got out of the seventh, and Jeremy Affeldt struck out three in two perfect innings for his first career save.

The six-hitter was Kansas City’s fifth shutout of the season. Tampa Bay has been blanked eight times.

Gobble is the eighth Royals pitcher to win his major league debut and the first since Glendon Rusch on April 6, 1997.

“We follow our minor league reports every day,” manager Tony Pena said. “We get reports on everything they do in the minors—and I still never thought he would be the way he was today.”

Gonzalez lost despite retiring 15 batters in a row between Randa’s third-inning single and Brent Mayne’s one-out single in the eighth.

He struck out three and walked one in his third career complete game and first since 1998 with the Chicago Cubs.

Gobble’s toughest challenge came when Jared Sandberg and Julio Lugo opened the Devil Rays’ third with back-to-back singles. Gobble got Crawford to ground into a fielder’s choice, advancing Sandberg to third, then struck out Antonio Perez and Rocco Baldelli.

The last pitch to Baldelli was the most impressive of the day. With the count 2-2 and Crawford running from first, Gobble froze Baldelli with a breaking ball at the knees.

Gobble also had runners in scoring position in the fifth and sixth, both times with two outs.

Randa homered with one out in the first inning, and Guiel made it 2-0 with one out in the third when his line drive hit the wall in the right-field corner and skipped past Rolls. By the time Rolls tracked the ball down, Guiel was rounding third.

“I’ve misplayed a few balls out there myself,” Guiel said. “If you don’t get the ball cut off, it’s going to get on that rubberized warning track androll all the way around.”

Notes

1B Mike Sweeney, on a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Omaha, could join the Royals on Monday in Chicago. Sweeney has been out since June 19 with tightness in his upper back. … Kansas City’s three inside-the-park homers this season are its most since hitting four in 1992. The club record is seven in 1979. … Baldelli went 0-for-4, snapping a 10-game hitting streak. … Crawford stole two bases, giving him sole possession of the AL lead and the Devil Rays’ single-season record with 33. He had been tied with Jason Tyner (31 steals in 2001). … Kansas City is 37-0 this season when holding opponents tothree or fewer runs.

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