Crawford’s triple in 8th lifts Rays over Royals

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Carl Crawford and the Rays caught a break when Royals left fielder Esteban German crashed into a wall—and Tampa Bay took advantage.

Crawford’s tiebreaking, two-run triple with two outs in the eighth inning came after German couldn’t hold onto a foul ball, and sent the Rays to a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

Crawford drove in Akinori Iwamura and B.J. Upton with his second triple of the game and put the Rays up 4-2. It was the seventh career two-triple game for Crawford and second of the season.

“It feels good to hit the ball hard and get the base hit,” he said. “We really needed it. It feels good to contribute. It’s a big outfield, so if you hit in gap it’s a pretty good chance to get a triple.”

Before the triple, German nearly caught Crawford’s foul ball, but it fell out of his glove when he ran into the wall.

“We got the break with B.J.,” Crawford said. “And the foul ball down the line, I thought the left fielder was going to catch the ball at first and then I was able to get the hit. It seemed like the ball just bounced our way.”

Upton’s double to shallow right eluded second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and right fielder Jose Guillen and probably should have scored Iwamura, but he didn’t run hard enough, which irked Rays manager Joe Maddon.

“I didn’t know it was going to drop, but I knew it was going to be trouble,” Upton said. “I kept running, did my job to get to second and it fell. That was definitely a big break right there. The foul ball CC (Crawford) hit down the line, probably should have been an out, but it’s a tough play with the wall right there. We just capitalized on it. That’s been us all season. You give us a second chance and we normally take advantage.”

Carlos Pena added a home run in the ninth, helping Tampa Bay extend its AL East lead to two games over Boston.

“We love to watch those balls go a long way,” Crawford said.

Al Reyes (2-2) earned the win with a scoreless seventh inning. Troy Percival, who returned from the disabled list Sunday, worked the ninth for his 22nd save in 24 opportunities. He gave up a run on Ross Gload’s leadoff triple and German’s single.

Ramirez (1-1) took the loss. He retired the first eight batters before the Royals’ defense betrayed him.

“As a pitcher my job is to pick up some guys sometimes and I wasn’t able to do that,” Ramirez said. “The pitch to Crawford wasn’t in enough. It caught too much plate.”

Pena hit his 17th homer leading off the ninth. He is batting .393 with four home runs and 11 RBIs against the Royals this season.

Rays left-hander Scott Kazmir, who is 2-4 in his past nine starts, left after five innings with the score tied at 2. He yielded two runs and seven hits, walking none and striking out five.

After a 73-minute rain delay, the Royals tied it in the fifth when Guillen’s single scored Grudzielanek, who had three doubles to match a career high. Guillen was in a 1-for-21 skid with one RBI since the All-Star break before that hit.

Gload’s two-out single in the fourth scored Billy Butler, who led off the inning with a single, with the first Kansas City run.

The Rays scored their first two runs on groundouts. Pena, who opened the second with a walk, scored on Eric Hinske’s groundout. Evan Longoria led off the fourth with a double, his 45th extra-base hit—which leads all rookies. He stopped at third on Pena’s single and scored on Willy Aybar’s groundout.

Royals rookie starter Luke Hochevar held the Rays to four hits and two runs in five innings but did not return after the rain delay.

“I thought he did a good job of mixing and matching his pitches,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “He fell behind in some counts, but did a good job of getting back into the count and limited the damage and gave us a chance to win.

Notes

Rays DH Cliff Floyd was not with the club. He returned to Clearwater, Fla., where his wife, Maryanne, gave birth to a daughter, Layla. Willy Aybar started as the DH for the 10th time. … Hillman was ejected in the fourth when he argued after Alex Gordon was called out at first base on a sacrifice bunt.

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