ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays got another superlative starting pitching effort and enough timely hits on Tuesday to improve to 21-4 in July with a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Tropicana Field.
Roberto Hernandez improved to 6-11 after allowing just five hits -- two by Aaron Hill -- in his first complete game of the season. He wasn't threatened until the ninth, when Gerardo Parra singled and Eric Chavez clanked his eighth home run off the right-field foul pole. Hernandez struck out six.
Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar each knocked in two runs.
Tampa Bay (64-43), which has gained nine games in the standings with its torrid run, clinched its best month ever and is producing the best record in July since the 1941 New York Yankees (25-4).
Arizona (54-52) lost its third straight.
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead in the second inning with the help of two doubles off Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy (3-8). Desmond Jennings led off with a hustle double on a line drive into the left-center alley. He scored easily on Zobrist's single to right for a 1-0 lead. Evan Longoria reached on a fielder's choice and beat a throw home with two out when James Loney banged a double off the wall in right-center.
Escobar's eighth home run of the season gave the Rays a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.
Kennedy failed in his 10th try at his 50th career win, allowing three earned runs on six hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out seven.
Tampa Bay added another run off Will Harris in the sixth as Matt Joyce led off with a walk, advanced to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run by Jose Molina and a wild pitch, and scored on Escobar's fly-out to right field.
Zobrist's RBI double improved the lead to 5-0 in the eighth.
NOTES: The game was delayed for 20 minutes in the bottom of the second inning when a lightning strike at a substation serving Tropicana Field caused several banks of lights to go dark. ... The Rays have won a club-record 10 consecutive series, the longest by a major-league club since the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals won 10 in a row. ... Tampa Bay entered a slate of 10 consecutive games against National League teams with the best interleague record in the majors (9-1). ... MLB.com reported Tuesday that the Diamondbacks were close to acquiring RHP Jake Peavy from the White Sox before the trade deadline, but Arizona manager Kirk Gibson told a Phoenix-area radio station, "I was just informed (by the media) that we were the front-runner, but I walked out of the room at noon, and I hadn't heard his name in two days." Peavy is 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 13 starts, but the Diamondbacks expect to soon have RHP Brandon McCarthy (right shoulder inflammation) and RHP Trevor Cahill (right hip contusion) back from injuries. ... Rays rookie OF Wil Myers extended his hitting streak to 11 games.