Royals beat Rays, back to .500 record after fall from the top

Picture of Brad Keller pitching

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays’ 11-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday night when Brad Keller pitched seven strong innings and Salvador Perez hit a tiebreaking RBI single to give the Kansas City Royals a 2-1 victory.

Keller (4-4) allowed one run, four hits, four walks and struck out seven. Jake Brentz went 1 1/3 innings before Kyle Zimmer got two outs to get his second save.

“Brad was as good as I’ve seen him,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I thought he had very good rhythm. I thought his tempo, his execution on his fastball and slider were good, Probably the best changeups we’ve seen from him. If he can continue to development that pitch, it’s going to help everything else.”

The Royals have won seven of 10 following an 11-game losing streak. They had the best record in the MLB at one point before their long spiral towards the bottom.

The win against the Rays equalized their record back to .500 with a 23-23 record. The Rays are 30-20, currently leading the American League.

Rich Hill struck out a career-high 13 for the Rays. Tampa Bay’s winning string was the second-longest in club history, one shy of the record set in 2004 by the then-Devil Rays managed by Lou Piniella.

Tampa Bay center fielder Kevin Kiermaier called the stretch “incredible.”

“I think we were all waiting for, not necessarily an 11-game win streak, but to kind of bust out of the shell and get guys swinging the bats and just feeding off our pitchers,” Kiermaier said.

Perez put the Royals up 2-1 on a sixth-inning single off Hill (3-2).

Hill gave up two runs and six hits, and didn’t issue a walk over eight innings. Over his last six starts, the lefty has allowed five earned runs over 35 2/3 innings, but has a 2-2 record.

Hill became the oldest player to appear in a game with the Rays at 41 years, 75 days. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs was 41 years, 73 days old when he played his final game on Aug. 27, 1999.

Hill retired his first 10 batters before Carlos Santana tied it 1 in the fourth with a home run. It was his 250th homer, which moved him within one of tying Tony Clark for 13th place all-time among switch-hitters.

Brett Phillips had a single leading off the Rays third that went off Keller’s glove, stole second, went to third on a grounder and scored on a hit by Yandy Díaz.

Kansas City shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, reinstated from the 10-day injured list after missing the first 45 games this season with a right oblique sprain, doubled twice in four at-bats. He was hurt in the Royals’ final spring training game on March 29.

“Just good to have him back,” Matheny said. “We know what kind of dangerous player he is as far as what he can do at the plate, what he can do on the bases and defensively, too. It’s exciting to have him back.”

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