ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. —The secret to cooling off the Tampa Bay Rays starts with... wait, what's this? Jamming on Evan Longoria's drum set?
So the man says, the man being Royals starter Brian Bannister, who worked seven brilliant innings Friday night in a 3-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"I got to go in there and jam on it (Thursday)," Bannister said. "Look what it did for me. I think he should charge by the minute, although I don't know if he'll let anyone else use it anymore."
Beautiful game, isn't it?
It wasn't just banging a drum, of course. The Royals outlasted Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann, an emerging nemesis, before matching bullpens with the Rays over the last two innings — and seeing the Rays crack first.
Who saw all of that coming?
Tampa Bay still owns baseball's best record, leads all teams in scoring and beat the Royals by 10 runs in Thursday's series opener. And the Royals' bullpen has taken more beatings than... fill in the blank. It's a lot of beatings.
Throw in the Royals' lack of success at the Trop, where they won just two of their previous 14 games while being outscored 91-30. Add a cringing baserunning mistake and, still, the Royals found a way thanks to a little luck, a few inches and, OK, a drum.
"If you're a fan of the game," catcher Jason Kendall said, "it was a great game to watch."
The Royals broke a 1-1 tie by scoring twice in the ninth against relievers Randy Choate and Rafael Soriano. The rally started with an error by Choate and included a sacrifice fly from Alberto Callaspo and an RBI single by Mitch Maier.
It could have been more.
Third-base coach Dave Owen waited too long to halt Jose Guillen's charge from second base on Maier's single. Guillen kept coming and was an easy out at the plate.
"Dave told Jose, 'It's my fault,' " manager Trey Hillman said. "We're in an aggressive mode right there. The third-base coach is being aggressive. He was just over-aggressive in that situation."
It nearly cost the Royals because the Rays didn't go quietly in their ninth against Joakim Soria. Carl Crawford punched a one-out single up the middle and went to second and third on defensive indifference before Ben Zobrist worked a walk.
Evan Longoria then brought he crowd of 25,195 to its feet with a fly to deep left before Scott Podsednik made a leaping catch at the wall.
"I thought it could have gone either way off the bat," Podsednik said. "I was right there, up against the wall. Once it started coming down, it appeared that I had a shot at it."
The result was a sacrifice fly instead of a game-winning three-run homer.
The Rays still weren't finished.
Soria walked Carlos Pen~a, which put the winning run on base, before ending the game on B.J. Upton's routine fly to center.
"As soon as he hit," Maier said, "I just hoped he hit it hard enough. I saw the swing and knew he didn't hit it very well. But he had enough barrel on it that it carried out to me."
When Maier squeezed the out, the Royals could, finally, breathe easier. Josh Rupe (1-1) got the victory for a scoreless eighth. Choate (0-2) was the loser.
"It was a win here in the House of Horrors," Hillman said. "I can't imagine a guy doing a better job than Brian Bannister did of cooling bats off."
Bannister permitted one run and two hits in seven innings. Longoria had both hits; an opposite-field homer in the second inning and a single in the seventh. The homer was the game's only run until the Royals stirred against Niemann in the seventh.
It was enough. Just.