Tommy Pham, Yandy Diaz and Ji-Man Choi each drove in a pair of runs, sending the hot-hitting Tampa Bay Rays to an 8-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.
Michael Perez and Kevin Kiermaier also drove in runs for the Rays (19-9), who have won five of six to build upon the best record in baseball. They also moved to 10-2 on the road.
Yonny Chirinos went 5 2/3 innings in relief of effective opener Ryne Stanek, allowing two earned runs on two hits and a walk. Chirinos improved to 4-0 after going 0-3 last season.
The Rays did most of their damage against Brad Keller (2-3), who struggled in his return from a five-game suspension for his role in a fracas with the Chicago White Sox. The big right-hander allowed five runs on six hits and three walks over five innings.
The Rays jumped on Keller in the first when Choi drew a two-out walk, went to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a balk. When he scored on Diaz’s base hit, Tampa Bay had outscored its opponents 29-4 in the first inning this season.
The Rays added three more in the second after Kiermaier was hit by a pitch, beginning a parade of batters to the plate. Perez delivered an RBI double and Pham provided the big blow with a two-run triple, staking the Rays’ pitching staff — with the best ERA in baseball — to a 4-0 lead.
They nearly gave it right back in the third.
The Royals took advantage of an error by Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson and a walk to Whit Merrifield when Adalberto Mondesi tripled to right. He scored on Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly.
Jorge Soler homered in the seventh for Kansas City, but the Rays added a run in the eighth and Choi’s two-run double off Wily Peralta in the ninth to put the game away.
FRIENDS IN LOWE PLACES
Rays DH Nate Lowe doubled in the eighth for his first big league hit. The slugger roared through three minor league levels last season and was hitting .300 at Triple-A Durham.
Rays: INF Matt Duffy took some at-bats in extended spring training as he rehabs from a sore back and ailing hamstring. He hopes to return in the next couple of weeks. “He felt good,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Progress is being made.”
Royals: OF Billy Hamilton got another day off after leaving Saturday night’s game against the Angels with a sore hamstring. “That’s one of his main strengths,” manager Ned Yost said of Hamilton’s speed. “I’m going to wait until he’s really good, then I’m going to give him one more day.”
AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell (2-2, 2.54 ERA) makes his second start after returning from a toe injury on Tuesday night against the Royals. Snell was on a 65-pitch limit and got knocked around his last time out. Jakob Junis (2-2, 5.57) will be on the mound for Kansas City.