KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Zack Greinke pitched seven sharp innings and the Kansas City Royals beat Tampa Bay 3-2 Thursday night, leaving the Rays and New York Yankees tied for the AL East lead.
The Rays and idle Yankees, who have both clinched playoff spots, are even at 94-65 going into the final weekend. Tampa Bay plays three more times at Kansas City while the Yankees have a three-game series at Boston.
If Tampa Bay and New York are tied after Sunday, the Rays win the division title because they won the season series against the Yankees.
Greinke (10-4) gave up two runs and four hits while striking out nine. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner with a 16-8 record, Greinke had won only one of his previous seven starts. He'd been tagged for 13 runs and 19 hits in 9 2-3 innings in losing his prior two outs.
Greinke finished with a 4.19 ERA after his last start of the season. He had a 2.16 ERA last year.
Joakim Soria worked the ninth for his 43rd save in 45 opportunities. Soria has earned saves in his past 36 opportunities since his last blown save on May 6 at Texas.
Soria also has pitched 23 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings, a Royals record for a relief pitcher, in his past 24 appearances.
Matt Garza (15-10) gave up three runs and five hits in seven innings.
The Royals scored a run in each of the first three innings, starting and ending on RBI groundouts by Kila Ka'aihue.
Jarrod Dyson's triple with two outs in the second brought home Brayan Pena, who had doubled,
Carl Crawford led off the fourth with his 18th home run, matching his career high. Reid Brignac's sacrifice fly in the seventh scored B.J. Upton, who doubled and stole his 42nd base.
Notes: Rays 3B Evan Longoria missed his seventh straight game with a strained left quadriceps. ... Royals OF Mitch Maier has not played since Saturday because of stiffness in his left knee. ... Royals 1B Billy Butler singled in the first inning and has hit in 103 consecutive series, the second such longest streak in the majors. ... If LHP Bruce Chen picks up his 12th victory Friday in a start against the Rays he would become the first Royals left-hander to win more than 11 games in a season since 1988 when Charlie Leibrandt won 13 and Floyd Bannister won 12.