The AL East is upside down.
Scott Kazmir and the first-place Tampa Bay Rays knocked New York into the division cellar Thursday, beating the visiting Yankees 5-2 for their seventh victory in eight games.
Akinori Iwamura and Shawn Riggans homered off Ian Kennedy to help the surprising Rays take three of four in the series. Kazmir sparkled in his first start since agreeing to a $28.5 million contract extension, allowing three singles in six scoreless innings.
Tampa Bay, which started play in 1998 and has never won more than 70 games, has spent three straight days alone atop the AL East standings for the first time. The Rays have captured six of seven series while boosting the league's best record to 24-17.
"I think the guys are handling this very well. It's the confidence that's been gained. It's the momentum that you create," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's a feeling that did not exist before. So first of all, you have to nurture it and grow it, and then once you got it, you have to do everything you can to hold on to it because it can go away."
While the Rays are beating everybody, Kansas City keeps feasting on the Tigers in particular.
Jose Guillen homered and drove in three runs, Gil Meche pitched seven solid innings and the Royals beat Detroit 8-4 at Kauffman Stadium to complete another three-game sweep of the Tigers.
Kansas City won its season-best fourth straight and improved to 6-0 this season against the skidding Tigers, who have lost four in a row and 10 of 12 while falling into last place in the AL Central.
The Royals began the year with three wins at Detroit, which opened 0-7 despite a $139 million payroll. Now, the Tigers (16-25) are struggling again.
"That's a question I ask, 'How we can sweep this team twice with the type of offense that they have?'" Guillen said. "That's baseball. You see some stuff you're never going to believe, but we did it."
In other AL games, it was: Cleveland 4, Oakland 2; Toronto 3, Minnesota 2 in 11 innings; and Chicago 4, Los Angeles 3.
Billy Butler's two-run double keyed a three-run first against Detroit left-hander Kenny Rogers (3-4). Miguel Olivo doubled home Butler with the final run of the inning.
Meche (3-5) yielded three runs and six hits while striking out six and walking two. He won for the first time in five home starts this season and improved to 7-4 against the Tigers, who have scored only 11 runs in their six losses to Kansas City.
"We're not stringing good at-bats together," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm very surprised and disappointed in the results so far, but I'm not disappointed in the effort."
At St. Petersburg, Fla., Kazmir (2-1) walked three and struck out three in his third start since spending April on the disabled list with a left elbow strain. The 24-year-old lefty agreed Wednesday to a three-year extension through 2011, a deal with a club option that could raise the contract's value to $39.5 million over four seasons.
The Yankees have lost six of nine and got another shaky performance from Kennedy (0-3), who was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his sixth start of the season.
New York (20-22), struggling with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada on the disabled list, was shut out until seventh-inning RBI singles by Derek Jeter and Melky Cabrera off Gary Glover. The slumping Yankees scored six runs in the series, two off Rays starters.
"We're much better than this. We can't start blaming injuries. It's part of the game," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "We just have to deal with it, and we haven't dealt with it the right way."
It won't get any easier this weekend. The Yankees head home to face Johan Santana and the crosstown rival Mets in the opener of the Subway Series on Friday night.
"You face a lot of good pitchers all year long," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's one of the best in baseball. That doesn't mean that you can't score runs. You've got to take advantage of your opportunities."
Indians 4, Athletics 2
At Cleveland, an unearned run charged to Aaron Laffey _ caused by his own throwing error _ ended the scoreless streak by Indians starters at 44 1-3 innings but didn't interrupt their string of dominant outings.
Laffey (2-2) allowed just the unearned run and five hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking one while filling in for injured starter Jake Westbrook. Laffey lowered his ERA to 1.35 and has gone seven innings in each of his last three starts without giving up an earned run.
The scoreless streak, which began last Friday, ended in the second when Laffey charged Rob Bowen's grounder and threw it into right field, allowing Bobby Crosby to score.
Jhonny Peralta homered and scored three times for Cleveland.
Blue Jays 3, Twins 2, 11 innings
At Minneapolis, pinch-hitter Joe Inglett singled home the go-ahead run with two outs in the 11th to help Toronto complete a three-game sweep. B.J. Ryan earned his seventh save.
White Sox 4, Angels 3
At Anaheim, Calif., Jim Thome hit a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning to spoil Jon Garland's first start against his former team.
Pierzynski led off the ninth with his third hit, a double against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez (0-1). He tagged up and advanced to third on Carlos Quentin's flyout to the warning track in center and scored on Thome's hit.
Octavio Dotel (2-2) pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings for the win and Bobby Jenks, a former Angels prospect, got three outs for his eighth save in 10 attempts.