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Rays notes: Homestand rougher than hoped

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Published:   |   Updated: June 17, 2013 at 06:02 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Sunday's game was decided by a matchup that Rays manager Joe Maddon believed was tilted heavily toward the home team.

The Rays and Royals were tied 2-2 in the sixth when Roberto Hernandez yielded a two-out double to former Tampa Bay infielder Elliot Johnson. Maddon ordered an intentional walk to Jeff Francoeur, preferring to pitch to No.?9 hitter Alcides Escobar, but the move backfired when Escobar lined a single for one of his three hits on the afternoon.

Alex Gordon followed with another RBI single and Gordon added an eighth-inning sacrifice fly as the Royals won 5-3 to clinch their first series victory at Tropicana Field since 2004.

“KC outplayed us, period,” Maddon said after Tampa Bay remained five games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East. “The big play was Escobar's two-out hit to left field. Francoeur was like 5-for-10 against (Hernandez), with three extra-base hits, while the other guy was 2-for-10. I felt very bullish about the whole thing, but it didn't work out.”

The Rays took a 2-1 lead against former Tampa Bay pitcher Wade Davis in the first inning on RBI hits by Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings, but Davis found his rhythm after a 35-pitch opening frame. Jose Lobaton's solo homer with one out in the ninth off closer Greg Holland made things interesting, but Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist struck out, sandwiched around a walk to Matt Joyce.

“I tried to throw a sinker (to Escobar) and it broke up in the plane,” said Hernandez, who fell to 4-7 after yielding nine hits and four runs in 52/3 innings. “Bad pitch.”

Francoeur tied the game 2-2 with a fifth-inning home run and displayed a powerful arm in right field. Davis and four relievers did the rest, limiting the Rays to only two hits in the final five innings.

“Davis has good stuff,'' said Rays third baseman Kelly Johnson. “He did a good job of managing the game after that first inning.”

Rapid recovery When David Price woke up Sunday, he didn't know what to expect. The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, placed on the disabled list a month ago for a strained left triceps, was still sore Saturday, two days after throwing in a simulated game.

“I feel great today,” Price said before Sunday's matchup against the Royals. “To feel as good as I do today is a bright spot.”

Price threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Saturday and he is slated to throw again in the bullpen Tuesday before another simulated game Thursday. There is no definite timetable for his return to the Rays, whose starting pitching has been erratic.

“My dad calls me every day, making sure I'm taking it nice and slow,” said Price, who was 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA before being shut down. “I'm like, 'Dad, (trainer) Ron Porterfield's not going to let me go out before I'm ready.' He wants me to come back to stay back.''

Price said his long stint of inactivity is frustrating.

“The DL's just not for me,'' he said. “I really don't know what to do with myself. Hopefully, it'll be a good learning process. It gets a little tedious, but these guys are in my corner. They're always looking out for my best interests.”

Side trip Maddon won't be on the team flight up to Boston today.

Instead, Maddon will return to his hometown to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Hazleton (Pa.) Integration Project's Community Center. Maddon teamed with family members and friends to create the facility for economically challenged children.

Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi will attend the unveiling, along with other Pennsylvania officials.

“I'm really excited about it,'' Maddon said. “This is about three or four years in the making and hopefully, it'll make a difference in the community.”

Noteworthy RHP Brandon Gomes (right lat strain) threw a bullpen Sunday, his first since going on the disabled list May 10. He is scheduled to begin his minor-league rehab assignment June 24. RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (Tommy John surgery) also threw a bullpen Sunday, his first since undergoing surgery last September. …Maddon said Evan Longoria, who has been hobbled by plantar fasciitis in his right foot, is expected to return to third base in Boston on Tuesday after serving as Tampa Bay's DH against the Royals. …The Rays have allowed 147 two-out runs this year, the second-most in the majors behind the Angels. …Tampa Bay has dropped 10 of its last 17 home games after opening the season 14-6 at the Trop.

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