ST. PETERSBURG (WDAE) -- For the second night, Mike Zunino homered as part of a three-hit night as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Kansas City Royals 5-2 Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
Zunino started a three-run second inning with a base hit off Royals starter Homer Bailey with a base hit that scored Kevin Kiermaier, who drew a leadoff walk and went to third on a base hit by Daniel Robertson, for a 2-0 lead. Brandon Lowe made it 3-0 with a base hit, and Yandy Diaz's sacrifice fly put the Rays up a grand slam.
The Rays catcher added a solo home run in the sixth off reliever Tim Hill, his second in as many days since coming off the paternity list, and is riding an eight-game hitting streak.
"I’m not trying to do too much," Zunino said. "Just letting the swing take over and it’s one of those things hopefully that when it keeps going, I can ride this out for a while."
"We saw it in spring training a little and then throughout this streak we have started to see the ball really jump off the bat," manager Kevin Cash said. "The home run, the line drive today, he got three hits today I believe. It’s nice, it helps our lineup turn over a little."
Joey Wendle got the scoring started in the bottom of the first, lining an RBI single -- his first hit of the year -- that scored Lowe.
Ryne Stanek worked a efficient first, but left with one out in the second after Ryan O'Hearn lined a triple past a diving Tommy Pham in left. Jalen Beeks would walk Lucas Duda, but struck out Chris Owings and Martin Maldonado, the first two of his season-high seven punchouts, whuile getting Tampa Bay through the sixth inning to earn his first win of the year.
Austin Pruitt, called up from Triple-A Durham Tuesday, allowed both Kansas City runs on a Maldonado solo homer in the seventh, and a wild pitch in the eighth that allowed Adalberto Mondesi to score from second base.
Adam Kolarek came on to get Duda to ground out to end the eighth, and Emilio Pagan worked a perfect ninth for his second save in as many days, allowing both Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo to get a second day off.
"Those guys have earned it and they needed it," Pagan said of spelling the Rays eighth and ninth inning relievers. "[I'm] glad I could come through and get the job done to reset the backend of our bullpen going into the next series. It feels pretty good.”
Tampa Bay will get a chance to complete the sweep Wednesday afternoon.
Tampa Bay Rays (16-8) vs. Kansas City Royals (7-17), 1:10 pm first pitch, with coverage on WDAE beginning at noon with The Inside Pitch
Rays starter: LHP Blake Snell (2-1, 2.16 ERA)
Royals starter: RHP Jakob Junis (1-2, 6.26 ERA)