Jackson helps Rays end road losing streak
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Road victories have been rare for Tampa Bay. Edwin Jackson and the bullpen made sure the Rays got one Friday night.
Jackson surpassed his victory total for last season and the Rays snapped a seven-game road losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
The Rays, who moved one game in front of Boston in the AL East, won on the road for the first time since June 29, at Pittsburgh.
“It’s so nice to get a road victory,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “If we’re going to get to the promised land, we’ve got to win on the road. We’ve got to do a better job of that. I would say the pitching pretty much got that done for us tonight. Our bullpen was fabulous tonight.”
The Rays are 20-26 on the road.
“Finally,” reliever J.P. Howell said of picking up a win away from home. “We get to kill the road streak, squash that. It started to get a little mental. We started talking about it in the clubhouse. That’s something you don’t want to do. We realize we’re going to have to win home or away. The majority of our games are on the road now, so we better get used to it.”
The Rays play 35 of their final 60 games on the road.
Jackson (6-7), who was 5-15 last season, did not yield a hit until Billy Butler homered to center with two outs in the fifth.
John Buck led off the sixth with a homer, the only other hit Jackson allowed.
Jackson allowed two runs in five-plus innings, walking two and striking out two. Jackson and four relievers held the Royals to four hits.
“I was surprised,” Jackson said of coming out after 74 pitches. “He’s the manager. My job is to do what I’m asked to do. He felt that I needed to come out of the game. Who am I to question? It’s not about to be really selfish. It’s not always about me, me, me. It’s a team game. We won and that’s the most important thing.”
Carlos Pena’s 16th homer with two outs in the ninth gave the Rays a 5-2 lead.
“It gave us a little room to work with,” Pena said of his home run. “A little breathing room is huge for our bullpen.”
It was Pena’s 14th career home run against the Royals.
“You definitely want to play well at home, but playing on the road is what is going to make the difference, I believe,” Pena said. “Wins are the road are going to be incredibly huge. I know the last time things were rough. It’s good to get that out of the way.”
“Carlos’ home run gave us a boost in the ninth inning,” Jackson said. “They hit a home run, so it would have been a tie game. That was huge on his part.”
The Royals had two baserunners over the first four innings, but Jackson erased both on double-play grounders.
“We didn’t have too many quality at-bats, other than the balls hit out of the ball park,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
The Rays made it 2-0 with an unearned run in the fifth. B.J. Upton led off the inning with a double, took third on second baseman Mark Grudzielanek’s throwing error and scored on shortstop Mike Aviles’ fielding error, when he dropped Pena’s line drive.
“It was right at me, started to knuckle and hit off the tip of my glove,” Aviles said.
The Rays made it 3-1 in the sixth when Dioner Navarro, who started the inning with a double, scored on a sacrifice fly by Upton.
Royals right-hander Brian Bannister (7-9), who is winless in five starts since a June 23 victory over Colorado, went 5 1-3 innings, allowing three runs and seven hits, walking one, hitting two batters and striking out one.
“My ball had a little more life and action to it,” Bannister said. “We were in the game all the way. I’ve incorporated some new stuff to get more ground balls.”
Howell worked out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh by retiring pinch-hitter Esteban German on a fielder’s choice grounder.
“We just kept picking each other up,” Howell said of the bullpen. “That’s what was so beautiful about it. It might have been a little ugly, but that’s the pretty part, we kept getting each other’s back. No superstars in that situation, just a win.”
Tampa Bay’s Grant Balfour did not allow a hit in 1 2-3 innings and leads all major league relievers by holding opponents to a .114 average. … Friday’s crowd of 31,535 pushed the Royals attendance to 1,019,894 for 51 home games. They were the last American League team to surpass the one million mark.