ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kansas City Royals pitchers are enjoying a record-breaking run of success, and now the offense is joining in on the fun.
Luis Mendoza pitched six innings to win for the first time in six starts and Elliot Johnson had another big hit against his former team Friday night, leading the Royals to a 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mendoza (2-3) gave up two runs and seven hits and three Royals relievers pitched three hitless innings as Kansas City held a 13th straight opponent to three runs or fewer. That franchise-record streak is the longest in the American League since Toronto went 15 games from June 26 to July 13, 1991.
Johnson had a game-tying triple among his two hits and Billy Butler drove in three runs for the Royals, who have won nine of 10.
“You can’t say enough good things about what our pitching staff’s done,” Butler said. “They’ve been tremendous from day one, and it’s been fun to watch. It’s been really fun lately to have them meshing together with the offense and defense. We’re playing some good baseball right now and it’s fun to come to the ballpark when you’re playing like that.”
Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore (8-3) gave up five runs on seven hits and four walks in 5 1-3 innings with four strikeouts. He is 0-3 in five starts since winning his first eight starts of the season.
Matt Joyce hit his 13th home run, off Mendoza’s third pitch of the game, and Evan Longoria drove in another run in the first inning with a double, giving the Rays a 2-1 lead. They never scored again.
“Our pitching’s been phenomenal. Another game today with two runs,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “Mendy started out really shaky. He was all over the place and he was behind on everybody. ... But he really settled himself in and his command got better. To get us into the seventh inning like he did is a great job.”
Johnson, who had three hits including a three-run home run on Thursday night, tied it with a triple in a four-run fifth and scored on Alcides Escobar’s single to put the Royals ahead.
Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez followed with hits and Butler, who had driven in the Royals’ first run with a single, concluded the four-run inning with a sacrifice fly.
Butler drove in Kansas City’s final run with a two-out single off Fernando Rodney in the ninth. It was his 517th RBI, moving him past Carlos Beltran into eighth place on the Royals’ all-time list.
Perez had two of Kansas City’s 10 hits and drove in two runs.
The Rays have lost five of six games in a stretch in which their starting pitchers have a 9.29 ERA.
“That is awkward for us because we normally, on a nightly basis, feel really good about your matchup, your starter versus theirs,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We haven’t had that feeling in a bit.”
The Royals, who lead the AL with a 3.38 ERA, have not given up as many as four runs in a game since May 31, when they lost 7-2 at Texas. They have given up 25 runs in 13 games this month.