KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' rotation certainly has had a rough time lately, with three starters giving up nine earned runs each over the past seven days.
But left-hander Eric Skoglund restored some order Monday, going 7 2/3 innings -- the longest outing of his career -- and giving up seven hits and two earned runs in a 2-1 loss to the Rays. He walked none and struck out four.
"Just keeping us in the game," Skoglund said. "These guys battled all night. Promising signs."
The deciding run came when the Rays' Adeiny Hechavarria barreled through a stop sign rounding third in the sixth inning and managed to avoid a tag at home by catcher Salvador Perez after a single by Matt Duffy. The throw from right fielder Jorge Soler was on time -- and it was clocked at 97 mph per Statcast™ -- but was just a hair up the line.
Hechavarria went behind Perez to avoid the tag, then crawled back to the plate and virtually played pattycake with Perez before slipping his right hand to the plate ahead of Perez's tag.
"That was pure instinct," Hechavarria said. "I went in thinking I was going to slide, but he was right there blocking the plate. So I went around. I was going to put one hand in, and I saw he was going to put one hand there, so I flipped and put the other hand in there just in time."
Added Perez: "That was kind of funny. First time it happened to me. I think the play was going to be like a [bang-bang] play, pretty close. As soon as I caught the ball, I was looking for him to jump and tried to tag him. He just moved to the other side. I tried to follow him, follow his body. He did a tremendous job changing hands. You guys saw that. That's pretty good for him.
"I went for the right hand first, but as soon as he saw me go outside, he changed to the left and I was too late. That was a great slide for him."
The Royals missed a chance in the ninth to tie it when Jonathan Jay tripled to left with one out. But Ryan Goins struck out on three pitches, and Alex Gordon grounded out to end the game.
Whit Merrifield jumped on a two-seam fastball from left-hander Ryan Yarbrough in the third inning and belted it into the Rays' bullpen beyond the left-field fence to tie the score at 1. It was Merrifield's fourth home run this season and traveled a projected 370 feet per Statcast™.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Royals looked like they were headed for a big inning in the fifth. Alcides Escobar singled, and with one out, Merrifield singled and Jorge Soler drew a four-pitch walk, loading the bases. Yarbrough was down to his last batter as he faced Mike Moustakas. And Yarbrough got Moustakas to hit into a 1-2-3 double play.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Perez showed off his quick reflexes in the eighth inning when he chased a dropped third strike down the first-base line during Carlos Gomez's leadoff at-bat. Gomez whiffed on Skoglund's 2-2 pitch, but it hit the dirt and ricocheted off Gomez's bat down the first-base line.
Perez tracked it down and got the ball to first baseman Hunter Dozier in time for the out. Gomez immediately turned around and pointed back at his dugout, indicating he thought Dozier might have pulled his foot off the bag. The Rays challenged, but the call stood -- Gomez was out at first.
HE SAID IT
"At that point I was just going 100 percent full speed and kept going." -- Hechavarria, on blowing through a stop sign and eventually scoring the deciding run by avoiding Perez's tag
Right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-4, 4.61 ERA) will take the mound for the Royals on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. CT against the Rays at Kauffman Stadium. Left-hander Anthony Banda will start for the Rays. Kennedy was charged with a season-high nine runs Thursday in Baltimore over four innings in an 11-6 loss.