ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -Not even a loss could diminish the Tampa Bay Rays' outstanding opening month.
An error by reliever Randy Choate helped Kansas City score twice in the ninth inning, and the Royals held on to beat the first-place Rays 3-2 on Friday night.
The Rays lost for just the third time in the last 17 games and ended April with a 17-6 record.
``It was a fabulous month,' manager Joe Maddon said. ``All we talked about was to get off to a good start. I could not be happier with the group.'
After reaching the World Series in 2008, Tampa Bay went just 9-14 in April last season en route to missing the playoffs.
Evan Longoria homered and had two RBIs for the Rays. He nearly won it in the bottom of the ninth, but his long drive to left with two on was caught at the wall for a sacrifice fly that made it 3-2.
With runners at first and second, Joakim Soria retired B.J. Upton on a fly ball to end it.
Alberto Callaspo had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly and Mitch Maier added a run-scoring single in the ninth for the Royals, who won for only the second time in 12 games against Tampa Bay since the start of last season.
``It's a win here in the house of horrors,' manager Trey Hillman said.
Scott Podsednik reached safely when Choate (0-2) misplayed his comebacker to start the ninth. After Billy Butler singled and Jose Guillen was hit by a pitch from closer Rafael Soriano, Callaspo gave the Royals a 2-1 lead with his sacrifice fly. Maier's RBI single made it 3-1.
``I rushed a little bit,' Choate said. ``I tried to pull it out of my glove too fast. I just dropped it to the ground.'
Josh Rupe (1-1) threw a scoreless eighth before Soria pitched the ninth for his sixth save. Soria walked two and allowed a hit in the ninth, but held on.
Longoria put the Rays up 1-0 with an opposite-field solo homer to right against Brian Bannister in the second.
Guillen tied it in the seventh on a run-scoring double off Jeff Niemann. The Royals wasted a great opportunity later in the inning when Jason Kendall hit into a double play with the bases loaded and one out.
Bannister gave up one run and two hits - both to Longoria - in seven innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked two.
``I think it was all Longoria's drum set,' Bannister said. ``I got to go in there (at the ballpark) and jam on it (Thursday) and look what it did for me.'
Niemann allowed one run, three hits, four walks and had three strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings. The right-hander induced three double plays.
Choate replaced Niemann with a runner on second and one out in the eighth. The left-hander worked out of the jam by striking out Chris Getz and getting a grounder from David DeJesus.
Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena tumbled over the railing and into the dugout while catching DeJesus' foul ball during the fourth. Wade Davis, who was cut on the leg, and Reid Brignac kept him from crashing onto the dugout floor.
``I thought I had more room than I actually did,' Pena said. ``My momentum took me over the fence, and my teammates picked me up because I went in there very violently.'
NOTES: Tampa Bay adviser Don Zimmer will need a flight with TVs on board to watch Homeboykris, co-owned by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, run in the Kentucky Derby. Zimmer will be at a charity event in Boston on Saturday and is scheduled to be flying back to Florida at post time. Zimmer reintroduced Torre to horse racing when he was Torre's bench coach with the New York Yankees. ... The Royals reinstated Getz (strained right oblique) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned RHP Victor Marte to Triple-A Omaha.
The Associated Press News Service
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