ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — A late comeback bid by the Kansas City Royals was stymied by a strange and disputed double play.
Batter Kendrys Morales was tagged out near the batter's box after a play at the plate to end the top of the eighth inning of the AL Central-leading Royals' 3-2 loss Sunday to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Down 3-2 with runners on first and third with one out, Morales hit a grounder that Rays first baseman James Loney fielded along the line in front of the base. Loney threw home where catcher Rene Rivera tagged out a sliding Ben Zobrist as he tried to advance from third.
Thinking the ball was foul, Morales took a step out of the box and never headed toward first. He was tagged out by Rivera to complete the double play.
"You go back and look at the replay, obviously it's not (a fair ball)" Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We generally don't run on foul balls. It was a foul ball. If he sees the ball's foul, it's not a play you instinctively run on."
The play is not reviewable under the challenge rules.
"In my eyes and my mind it's a foul ball," Morales said through an interpreter. "It's a little bit frustrating. That play should be reviewable. A game shouldn't be decided on a play like that."
Brandon Guyer and Kevin Kiermaier homered for the Rays, who won for the sixth time in 16 games.
"Good win, exciting ballgame," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said.
Kiermaier's sixth-inning homer off Luke Hochevar (1-1) broke a 2-2 tie. It was Kiermaier's second homer in two games and sixth of the season.
Xavier Cedeno (3-1) got the win in relief while Brad Boxberger pitched the ninth for his 32nd save.
Four of Kansas City's seven hits came during a two-run third that included RBIs by Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain.
Rays starter Nathan Karns gave up two runs on six hits while striking out five. It was the rookie right-hander's 19th start in which he has given up two runs or fewer, most in the AL.
Kansas City starter Danny Duffy gave up two runs while striking out six in five innings.
Guyer led off the third with a homer off Duffy, his sixth of the season.
By salvaging the final game of a three-game series, Tampa Bay prevented the Royals from a 7-0 sweep of their season series, a feat they have not accomplished since going 12-0 against Baltimore in 1988.
Royals: LF Alex Gordon, out since July 9 with a strained left groin, played in his eighth game with Triple-A Omaha and is close to returning. ... OF Alex Rios, out of the lineup for the second straight game with a virus, was sent back to Kansas City. ... RHP Ryan Madson has been resting since Aug. 22 to recover from a dead-arm period.
Rays: OF Steven Souza Jr. (broken left hand) is hitting off a tee and doing soft toss. He expects to be back in mid-September
The Royals fell to 22-12 in one-run games. ... Kansas City didn't have an extra-base hit for the first time since July 24 against Houston and are 0-9 in such games this season.
HOSMER HEATING UP
Royals 1B Eric Hosmer had two hits for his second straight multihit game after an 0-for-13 slide. He has a team-best 44 multihit games this year.
Royals: RHP Johnny Cueto (9-9) looks to end a personal two-game skid when he faces Detroit RHP Justin Verlander (2-6) in the opener of a nine-game homestand Tuesday night. Verlander is coming off a 5-0 shutout Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels in which he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning.
Rays: RHP Chris Archer (11-10) will go against Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chin (8-6) Monday night to start a three-game series in Baltimore.