Joakim Soria blows lead, Royals split series with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Brad Miller took a punch to the gut on Monday when told he was losing his starting shortstop role and being moved primarily to first base.

On Thursday, he delivered the knockout blow in a victory.

Miller hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2.

“I just go out there and play,” Miller said. “It’s all I can really do. Try and get after it. I think I’ve shown them all year how valuable I am, but at the end of the day, I have to go out and play. That’s all that matters.”

Tampa Bay acquired Matt Duffy on Monday in a four-player deal that sent left-hander Matt Moore to San Francisco. Duffy will take over at short when he returns next week from a strained left Achilles tendon.

Miller connected on his 19th homer off Joakim Soria (4-5), who gave up three of the Rays’ overall four hits during his one inning.

“We’re lucky to have him, and it doesn’t matter where plays,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We know his bat plays.”

Kanas City dropped to 40-2 when ahead after seven innings.

“In my view, it was a good pitch . it was down in the zone,” Soria said. “He hit it out, so it wasn’t a good pitch.”

Brad Boxberger (1-0) worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth before Alex Colome got his 26th save despite giving up two hits during the ninth. Drew Smyly allowed two runs, five hits, one walk and struck out 10 in seven innings.

Ian Kennedy gave up one hit, walked four and had nine strikeouts in six-plus innings for the Royals. Alex Gordon hit his eighth home.

Tampa Bay won the final two games to split the four-game series. The Rays are 8-25 against Kansas City since the start of the 2012 season.

Gordon had not homered or driven in a run in his previous 72 at-bats against left-handers this season before hitting a two-run drive off Smyly that put Kansas City ahead 2-0 in the fourth.

Smyly has given up 23 homers, including six to left-handed hitters. He didn’t allow a homer to a lefty last season.

Kennedy entered tied with teammate Chris Young and Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with a major league-high 26 homers allowed but hasn’t given up a long ball in three consecutive starts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: RHP Chase Whitley (Tommy John surgery) will make his fourth rehab start Friday night with Double-A Montgomery.

MLB SANCTIONS

Royals DH Kendrys Morales received a one-game suspension and a fine for his actions following a ninth inning ejection, which included returning to the field, in Tuesday night’s game. Morales appealed the ruling and started.

FUTURE IN BLUE?

Major League Baseball will hold a one-day free umpiring clinic for all ages at Tropicana Field on Aug. 20. Baseball officials, including MLB umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford, will also be looking for scholarship candidates to attend a one-day pro mini-camp in December. Umpire Carlos Torres, who worked the Royals-Rays series, is a one-time camp participant that received an umpiring school scholarship.

MOVING DAY

Tampa Bay claimed C Bobby Wilson off waivers from Texas and optioned C Curt Casali to Triple-A Durham.

UP NEXT

Royals: RHP Dillon Gee (3-5) will face recently acquired Toronto LHP Francisco Liriano, who went 6-11 with Pittsburgh.

Rays: Rookie LHP Blake Snell (3-4) will go against Minnesota RHP Ervin Santana (4-9) in the opener of a three-game series Friday between the AL’s two worst teams.

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