ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — What happens in the future might change everyone’s perspective, but right now — today — it’s hard for Tampa Bay to believe it didn’t get snookered by the Royals in that big off-season deal.
Ex-Ray Wade Davis survived a shaky start Sunday in working six strong innings in a 5-3 victory over his former club at Tropicana Field. And ex-Ray Elliot Johnson ignited a tie-breaking, two-run sixth inning with a double.
And ex-Ray James Shields, you might remember, beat Tampa Bay when the teams met earlier this season at Kauffman Stadium, (OK, Shields hasn’t won since — despite pitching well.)
Maybe they were just well trained.
Anyway, the four prospects the Rays received for Shields, Davis and Johnson, including 2012 consensus minor-league player of the year Wil Myers, are still in the minors.
The Rays announced after the game they planned to recall Myers from Class AAA Durham prior to Tuesday’s double-header in Boston. The move came after scoring just 11 runs over the last four games against the Royals.
Davis insisted it mattered little that he was pitching against the organization where he spent his previous nine professional seasons. He attributed his rocky first inning to mechanical issues, not emotional ones.
“I was jumping a little bit in the first inning,” Davis said. “I was flying open early. I got into the stretch early, and I was fighting myself. I got back out (in the second inning) and was able to settle down a little bit.”
Whatever it was, he was a different pitcher after a 35-pitch first inning that saw him allow three hits and two walks...but just two runs.
“I knew once he got through the first he was going to settle in and be fine,” manager Ned Yost said. “I just had a good feeling that if he could get back in dugout, he would regroup and hold them right there.”
Davis, 4-5, retired 16 of the last 18 hitters he faced before handing a 4-2 lead to the bullpen to start the seventh inning. A bullpen relay of Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland closed out the victory.
Holland permitted a one-out homer in the ninth to Jose Lobaton before securing his 14th save in 16 chances.
The Royals’ attack, meanwhile, continues to show signs of emerging from an extended slumber. Their 11-hit attack included two singles and a double from Alcides Escobar, and a game-tying homer from Jeff Francoeur.
Throw in two hits apiece by Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, and two RBIs from Alex Gordon … it was a balanced effort.
“We thought coming out of spring that we had a deep lineup,” Francoeur said. “In April, we did OK. May was just a disaster. For a while here (in June), Salvy (Perez) has been carrying this team offensively.
“Some of us are starting to wake up now. And this is what we imagined — this kind of game.”
Escobar contributed two key hits. His two-out RBI single in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie, and his leadoff double in the eighth inning turned into an insurance run that made things easier on the bullpen.
“Like I’ve been telling you, I’ve been feeling good the last few days,” he said. “I didn’t put my head down. I know I can swing the bat well. Today, I got three hits, and I feel much better.”
The Royals are also 5-1 this year against the Rays, with one still-unscheduled makeup game remaining, after winning three of four this weekend at The Trop.
“They flat beat us,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “They’re playing at a high level right now. They beat us in some crucial moments.”
The Royals won for the the 10th in 12 games and pulled them back to within one game of .500 at 33-34. They open a three-game series Monday at Cleveland.
Davis was the last of the three players acquired last December from the Rays to face his former team — and it didn’t begin well: a 35-pitch first inning after the Royals staked him to a 1-0 lead.
“I was up in the zone,” he said. “The result was the walks. A couple of hits came on balls I left up a little bit.”
It stayed 2-1 until Francoeur opened the fifth with a line-drive homer on a 3-2 slider from Rays starter Roberto Hernandez, who was formerly known as Fausto Carmona.
There were two outs an inning later when Johnson just missed a homer on a deep drive to right. Johnson settled or a double, which prompted an intentional walk to Francoeur.
Escobar spoiled the strategy by ripping a first-pitch fastball from Hernandez, 4-7, to left for an RBI single.
“I told myself on that at-bat, ‘I don’t want to miss this ball,’” he said. “I went after it and got a base hit. I’m looking for a fastball, and threw me a fastball. I got it right on the needle.”
The Rays appeared to have Francoeur trapped between second and third, but he avoided the tag in scrambling back to second. That turned into a key play.
“It was bang-bang,” Francoeur said. “When the ball came out of Luke Scott’s hand, I didn’t know if it was going to go high or low. Then I realized (Johnson) was going to score. Thank God, I got back.”
The Rays brought in Jake McGee for a left-on-left matchup against Gordon, who pulled a sharp RBI single to right for a 4-2 lead. Francoeur (again) barely avoided a tag, this time at the plate.
“Flipping Gordo,” Francoeur joked. “He had to hit a (hard line drive) right at the guy. Told him to hit it a little softer the next time.”