ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There was no use in Elliot Johnson trying to assert that his return to Tropicana Field didn't mean a little bit more.
"Sure it does," the Kansas City Royals second baseman said. "It's the first time I've been back here. I had a lot of good years for them, but I've moved on. I play for the Royals now. Obviously, I'm going to do everything I can to help this team win."
He did plenty on Thursday. Johnson, part of a seven-player deal in the offseason that sent outfield prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay in exchange for ace James Shields, ignited and finished an eight-run sixth inning that sent Kansas City to a 10-1 win.
Johnson's monstrous three-run homer to right chased laboring Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (4-3), who was charged with eight earned runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"He gets fired up playing against these guys," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who hit his second homer of the season. "He did some damage against them."
Kansas City, which won for the eighth time in nine games, celebrated boisterously in the clubhouse after pulling within two games of .500 at 31-33.
"It's a matter of confidence and tonight was the night we broke out," interim manager Chino Cadahia said. "So let's hope this is one of many."
Tampa Bay lost for the fourth time in five to drop to 35-31.
The light-hitting Johnson entered the decisive sixth with one home run this season -- off Hellickson on May 1 -- and on an 0-for-14 slide before singling to lead off the inning. Johnson moved to third on Alcides Escobar's double and scored on a single by Alex Gordon (2-for-4). A wild pitch allowed Escobar to score before Salvador Perez singled home Gordon for a 3-0 lead.
"All of a sudden it just went away very quickly," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "(Hellickson) just got a couple of changeups up, and they were hit."
David Lough gave the Royals a 5-0 edge with a base hit. Johnson (3-for-4) then stroked the 13th homer that Hellickson has allowed in 14 starts this season.
"I just left some balls up and they put some good swings on it," Hellickson said.
Chief among them was Johnson's towering shot.
"The home run, as soon as it hits my bat, I knew that's gone," Johnson said. "I hit that as far as I could hit it."
Johnson is 6-for-11 with two homers and four RBIs in three games against the Rays this season, and .202 with three RBIs in 39 games against all other teams.
Tampa Bay recouped an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth on a throwing error by Kansas City third baseman Miguel Tejada.
Hosmer's seventh-inning homer gave Kansas City a 9-1 lead. Lough added an RBI single in the eighth for the final margin.
Royals right-hander Ervin Santana was lavished with run support for the second straight start after the Royals scored just six runs in his first five starts of the season. Santana (5-5) allowed five hits with three strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings, yielding one unearned run.
Santana received seven runs of support on Saturday as he beat the Houston Astros for his 100th career win.
NOTES: The Rays have allowed double-digit runs seven times this year, one less than all of 2012. ... Rays LHP David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, said he felt great after a 54-pitch simulated game Thursday at Tropicana Field. Price has been on the disabled list since May 16 with a left triceps strain. Shields stepped into the batting cage as Price prepared for his mock test but ceded to Ryan Roberts, Sean Rodriguez and Sam Fuld. Maddon said Price is "exceeding expectations" and "looked like he could pitch in an actual game today." ... Evan Longoria started at designated hitter for Tampa Bay in a scheduled rest move and was replaced at third base by Kelly Johnson, who had not played the position since 2005 in Triple-A. ... Shields made his first trip to Tropicana Field as a visiting player but is not scheduled to pitch in the series after working Wednesday. He was given a standing ovation after a video tribute montage in the second inning. ... Santana retired the Rays on four pitches in the first inning. ... Royals manager Ned Yost, who was away attending his daughter's wedding, is expected to return for Friday's game.