Mike Zunino returned from the paternity list and hit his first home run for Tampa Bay, a two-run shot that helped the Rays stop a season-high four-game skid with a 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.
Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe and Daniel Robertson also drove in runs for the AL East leaders, who scored three times in the seventh to come from behind against Brad Keller (2-2). It’s the ninth time this season the Royals have lost after holding a lead in the sixth inning or beyond.
Pitching while appealing a five-game suspension for his role in a benches-clearing fracas with the Chicago White Sox last week, Keller held the Rays in check until giving up Robertson’s tying RBI grounder and Zunino’s homer to straight away center in the seventh.
Zunino, obtained from Seattle in an offseason trade, missed three games while on the paternity list for the birth of his son last Friday.
The 23-year-old Keller allowed five runs and seven hits over 6 1/3 innings in his first outing since hitting Chicago’s Tim Anderson with a pitch two innings after the AL’s leading hitter emphatically spiked his bat to celebrate a homer, sparking last Wednesday’s melee that led to his suspension.
Alex Gordon, Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler hit solo homers for the Royals, who have lost four straight.
Gordon and Dozier went deep for the second straight game, with Gordon connecting off Rays starter Yonny Chirinos in the first inning and Dozier giving the Royals a 3-1 lead in the sixth. Soler’s solo shot snapped a fifth-inning tie.
Wilmer Font (1-0) struck out the only batter he faced to get the win. Emilio Pagan pitched the ninth for his first career save.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (left shoulder impingement syndrome) is expected to rejoin the rotation Friday night. “He’s been one of our better starters over the last couple years, and when he’s healthy we know what type of pitcher he is,” manager Ned Yost said.
Rays: RF Austin Meadows, who’s on the injured list with a sprained right thumb, will be shut down for 10 days and hopes he will be ready to return in three to four weeks. “Let the swelling go down and after that see where we’re at,” Meadows said.
ON THE MEND
Rays LHP Blake Snell (fractured right fourth toe) had a light mound session totaling eight pitches in advance of an upcoming full bullpen. The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner did not take part in defensive drills with the other pitchers. Snell was hurt moving a decorative stand in the bathroom of his home on April 14.
Royals RHP Homer Bailey (2-1) will start the middle date of a three-game series. The Rays will use an opener, but were waiting until after Monday’s game to announce which reliever would take the mound first.