The Rays are tied with the Yankees atop the AL East, as both teams have 95-66 records, leaving the division winner to be determined Sunday. New York split a doubleheader with Boston on Saturday, and needs to win Sunday and the Rays to lose in order to take the division title, because Tampa Bay won the season series.
In any other scenario, the Rays will win the AL East and New York will take the wild card spot.
Carl Crawford homered and B.J. Upton added an RBI for the Rays, while Chad Qualls (2-0) picked up the win after retiring two batters in the third inning. Starter Andy Sonnanstine turned in 2 1/3 scoreless frames, scattering five hits.
Kyle Davies (8-12) was charged in the loss for six hits and four runs while fanning four and walking three in 5 2/3 frames.
"I pitched better than I did last time but it still wasn't good enough to win," Davies said. "I just wasn't as consistent in the strike zone as I need to be to have success."
Tampa collected two runs in its first at-bat as Upton and Crawford singled and later scored on a Joyce two-run triple.
"It was the key to the game, jumping on the other team early and getting that confidence, getting into the flow of the game and being able to relax," Joyce said. "The situational hitting is what we've done well all year and that was huge for us."
Crawford's homer in the third made it 3-0 for the Rays, then in the fifth a Jason Bartlett leadoff double resulted in the visitors' fourth run as Upton lofted a sacrifice fly to center.
Sonnanstine got into trouble in the third after a Gregor Blanco bunt single, double by Mike Aviles and plunking of Butler. He fanned Kila Ka'aihue before giving way to Qualls, who induced an inning-ending double play from Josh Fields.
The Royals did not threaten the rest of the way against a host of Tampa relievers. Grant Balfour fanned two over his 1 1/3 frames. Joaquin Benoit turned in a scoreless eighth then Randy Choate worked around a walk in the ninth to lock down the victory.
It was Sonnanstine's shortest outing as a starter this season...Tampa upped its AL-best road record to 46-34...Royals relievers Jesse Chavez, Dusty Hughes and Greg Holland combined to hold Tampa hitless over the final 3 1/3 innings.