Kansas City, MO (Sports Network) - Zack Greinke pitched seven solid frames, as Kansas City edged Tampa Bay, 3-2, dropping the Rays into a tie with the idle New York Yankees for first place in the American League East with three games remaining for each team.
Tampa Bay has lost four of five and again played without All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria, who missed his seventh straight game with a strained left quadriceps.
Without Longoria, the listless Rays offense managed just five hits and has scored a total of seven runs in its last four games.
Tampa Bay has three more games at Kauffman Stadium, while the Yankees begin their season-ending three-game stint in Boston Friday night.
The Rays and Yankees are one game in front of AL Central champion Minnesota for the best record and race for homefield advantage in the American League playoffs.
Matt Garza (15-10) was the hard-luck loser, giving up three runs on five hits with six strikeouts and just one walk in seven solid frames. His outing had to calm late-season serves, as the lynchpin of the rotation entered Thursday sporting a 6.41 earned run average in September.
"It's exactly what I needed today," Garza said. "I got my breaking balls over for strikes multiple times. I was able to repeat. It's a huge thing going into next week."
Greinke (10-14) yielded just two runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. Kila Ka'aihue drove in two runs for Kansas City, which has won three of four.
Joakim Soria came on in the ninth to face Tampa Bay's thunder, but got through Carlos Pena before a Matt Joyce single. B.J. Upton then tattooed a ball into the right-center field gap, but Jarrod Dyson legged over into the alley to make the catch. Pinch-runner Desmond Jennings stole second, but was left in scoring position when Reid Brignac grounded out to second, finishing off Soria's 43rd save.
The Royals scratched across the game's first run in their initial at-bat, as Gregor Blanco led off with an infield hit, moved to third on Billy Butler's single to right and scored on Ka'aihue's groundout.
Back-to-back extra-base hits netted another run for the home team one frame later. Brayan Pena socked a double down the right-field line and Dyson followed with a triple that Carl Crawford couldn't cleanly handle in the leftfield corner.
Kansas City kept the pressure on in the third as Mike Aviles legged out an infield hit near second, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and came in to score on Ka'aihue's fielder's choice grounder.
Crawford's solo shot leading off the fourth got one of the runs back for a two-run deficit. Tampa Bay inched closer in the seventh as Upton found real estate past Dyson in center for a one-out two-bagger, stole third and came in to score on Brignac's sacrifice fly.
One inning later, the Rays had the tying run 90 feet away after Ben Zobrist doubled and moved to third on Crawford's one-out flyout to center. Robinson Tejeda then struck out Dan Johnson to end the threat.
Upton's swipe of third in the seventh was his 42nd stolen base of the season...Aviles stole his 13th bag of the campaign for the Royals...Crawford's homer was his 18th of the season.