Grudzielanek's key hit caps Royals rally over Rays

Goats: The Rays' imploding bullpen issued five straight walks in the decisive eighth frame, which allowed the Royals to erase a 6-4 deficit.

Quotable: "When you walk five guys in a row at that juncture in the game, bad things normally happen." -- Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon

-- ESPN.com news services

Royals 8, Devil Rays 7

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Even Kansas City manager Buddy Bell was stunned by this one.

Mark Grudzielanek's RBI single off Shawn Camp with two out in the ninth inning lifted the Royals to a wild 8-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday night.

The Devil Rays led 6-4 going into the eighth but Jay Witasick and Casey Fossum combined to walk the first five batters of the inning, and Billy Butler's RBI single gave the Royals a 7-6 lead. Tampa Bay then tied it in the ninth with the help of a catcher's interference call.

"This game is crazy," Bell said. "You never know what's going to happen next."

Witasick left after walking the first three batters, including Mark Teahen, after having him down 0-2. Two of the batters were left-handers against the right-handed Witasick.

"In the last month strictly with lefties, I don't know what couch I need to lay on," he said. "I just can't get a lefty out right now."

The loss came one night after the Devil Rays almost blew a big lead and held on to snap an 11-game losing streak.

"When you walk five guys in a row at that juncture in the game, bad things normally happen," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's really unfortunate. We played well again and we've had that happen way too often this year."

Tony Pena Jr. singled leading off the ninth against Shawn Camp (0-3) and was sacrificed to second. He went to third on Esteban German's infield out before the Devil Rays intentionally walked a batter to get to Grudzielanek.

The veteran second baseman, who came off the disabled list late this week, did not take it personally.

"I would have walked myself, too," Grudzielanek said. "I have four at-bats in almost three weeks. It was the smartest thing to do."

With two out in the top of the ninth and the Royals leading 7-6, Carl Crawford reached on an interference call against catcher John Buck and then stole second. Crawford, one of the league's fastest runners, then came around to score the tying run when Brendan Harris singled off Octavio Dotel (2-1).

Carlos Pena and Jonny Gomes each homered off Gil Meche to help Tampa Bay build a 6-4 lead.

"They couldn't find the strike zone and we had enough patience to continue to let them throw the ball out of the strike zone," Bell said of Kansas City's eighth-inning rally. "So I guess we should take some of the credit. But you just don't expect that to happen."

Meche, Kansas City's lone representative for Tuesday's All-Star Game, gave up six hits and five runs in six innings. He walked four, all in the three-run fourth inning.

Tampa Bay's Andy Sonnanstine went seven innings in his seventh major league start. The rookie right-hander was charged with four runs -- three earned -- and six hits. He struck out five and walked one.

Witasick said he refused to stop trying to hit the corners with breaking pitches even though his control had obviously deserted him.

"You don't ever go, 'OK, I'm throwing the ball down the middle," he said. "That's just not part of the program. You always try to make your pitches, and you do it for as long as you can."

Pena's two-run homer handed Sonnanstine a 5-2 lead in the fifth, but the Royals came back with two in the bottom half on Butler's third homer of the season and an RBI single by David DeJesus.

Joey Gathright, who had bunted safely, scored on the single after being safe at second when shortstop Harris was charged with an error for dropping the throw from catcher Dioner Navarro on Gathright's attempted steal.

Tony Pena Jr.'s sacrifice fly gave the Royals a run in the third, and German tripled leading off the fourth and scored when Navarro threw wildly to third on a pickoff attempt.

Game notes
Devil Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey was back after missing 12 games following eye surgery. ... Saturday, 7-7-07, was Buck's 27th birthday. ... The prognosis for Kansas City designated hitter Mike Sweeney is worse than originally thought. The Royals now say he'll be out at least another six weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.