ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. _ Figure this. Even Joakim Soria couldn’t hold down the Tampa Bay Rays and, still, the Royals avoided a four-game sweep Monday afternoon by pulling out a 7-4 victory Monday in 10 innings at Tropicana Field.
John Buck hit a three-run homer that struck high off the left-field foul pole. Mike Aviles followed with drive over the left-field wall.
All that provided the Mexicutioner with a second chance, and a four-run lead, to cool off the red-hot Rays.
Soria, 1-1, gave up another run in the Tampa Bay 10th, on a homer by Eric Hiske, but still secured the victory. The loss snapped Tampa Bay’s six-game winning streak; the Royals improved to 40-50 and completed a 3-5 trip that began with a 2-2 split in Baltimore.
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Billy Butler opened the 10th against reliever Dan Wheeler, 2-4, by lashing a grounder to third. Evan Longoria made a fine pick-up but sailed the throw past first baseman Carlos Pena.
The result as a two-base error, and the Royals sent Esteban German in to run for Butler. German went to third on Mark Teahen’s grounder to second before Wheeler intentionally walked Ross Gload.
Buck jacked a 1-0 into the screen for his fourth homer of the year. The stunned crowd then saw Aviles line a 1-0 curveball over the left-field wall for his fourth homer of the year.
Soria inherited a 3-2 lead to start the ninth and began the inning by striking out Carl Crawford on three pitches. Soria jumped ahead 1-2 on Carlos Pena before Pena teed off on a 92-mph fastball.
The high drive cleared the right-field wall for Pena’s 13th homer of the year. The Rays were even at 3-3, and Soria has just his second blown save in 25 opportunities.
Pena pumped his right arm in exultation as he rounded the bases.
Longoria followed with a single through the right side and went to second on Willy Aybar’s grounder before Soria ended the inning.
Pena’s homer snatched a victory from Gil Meche, who yielded two runs in the first but scrambled through a series of jams over the next few innings. He exited with one out in the sixth and runners at first and second.
Ron Mahay stranded both runners by bending called third strikes past Crawford and Pena. Mahay also struck out two in a one-two-three seventh but surrendered a leadoff double to Dioner Navarro in the eighth.
Mahay retired Hinske on a foul pop before manager Trey Hillman summonded right-hander Ramon Ramirez. Navarro moved to third on Ben Zobrist’s grounder to first before Ramirez got Akinori Iwamura to hit a soft grounder back to the mound.
That provided Soria with a 3-2 lead in the ninth.
Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza, the former Twin, escaped with a no-decision after allowing three runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The Royals committed a costly gaffe in the seventh after David DeJesus led off with his third hit, a single to right. Joey Gathright popped a bunt at the plate and, irritated at himself, didn’t break initially for first.