KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Joey Wendle's go-ahead hit in the ninth inning gave Jonny Venters another first in his remarkable major league return.
Wendle drove in the winning run to get Venters his first victory since 2012, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 6-5 on Tuesday night.
Venters (1-0) got two outs for his first victory since Sept. 27, 2012 while with Atlanta against the Mets. The left-hander had been out since 2012 due to four major elbow surgeries, including three Tommy John operations, before returning to the majors this season.
"It was a long time ago," Venters said.
It took a last-inning rally to get Venters a victory. Johnny Field and Jesus Sucre led off the ninth with singles against Kelvin Herrera (1-1). Herrera retired the next two batters before Wendle laced a single to left.
"I feel like lately I've been particularly poor with runners in scoring position, which is always frustrating," Wendle said. "I think it's one of those things, over a longer or bigger sample size evens out, so it's always good to get a clutch hit."
Alex Colome worked the ninth for his eighth save.
The Royals lost their fourth straight and sixth in seven.
C.J. Cron hammered Ian Kennedy's first pitch to center for a two-run shot during the Rays' three-run first. Cron has reached base in a career-high 21 consecutive games and singled in the second for his fifth multihit game in his last seven games.
The Rays batted around in the first, which also included Adeiny Hechavarria's run-producing single scoring Matt Duffy, who had doubled. Kennedy struck out Sucre with the bases loaded to end the inning.
"I wasn't making quality pitches to start with," Kennedy said. "The fastball when I was throwing it was too much over the plate. The curveball wasn't down."
Manager Ned Yost had Brad Keller warming up in the first.
"I thought Kennedy at the beginning of the game was just flat, struggled with his command, gave up the three runs and he didn't look very good to me," Yost said. "You're hoping he can come in and made an adjustment and settle in and that's exactly what he did. He did a great job of grinding through six innings."
Left-hander Anthony Banda, who was making his Rays debut after being acquired in a February three-team trade from Arizona, threw only 52 pitches in five innings, allowing three runs and six hits. He became the eighth Rays' starter in 40 games this season, equaling the number of starters they used in 2017.
"Establishing the fastball, getting early-count outs, just attacking hitters, going at them with everything," Banda said. "Not shying away from contact, so overall I felt good. My body felt great."
Kennedy threw 34 of his 101 pitches in the first inning. He labored through six innings, yielding five runs on seven hits while striking out six. Span went down looking to end the sixth for Kennedy's 1,500th strikeout.
Whit Merrifield drove in Kansas City three runs. His seventh-inning two-out single off Sergio Romo scored Alex Gordon and Hunter Dozier. Merrifield's fifth-inning single scored Dozier.
NOW BATTING FIFTH
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar batted fifth for the first time in his nine-year career. He is the seventh player to bat fifth for the Royals this season.
The Rays optioned RHP Hunter Wood to Triple-A Durham, one day after he was recalled. The move was made to clear roster space for Banda.
Rays: Duffy left in the fifth inning with right hamstring tightness. Right fielder Carlos Gomez was removed in the sixth with right groin tightness. ... RHP Nathan Eovaldi threw a bullpen session Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Florida. "All went well," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. Eovaldi, who is on the disabled list with loose elbow fragments, will start a rehab game Friday for Durham. Cash said he would throw three innings and 50 pitches.
Royals: RF Jorge Soler was out with a displaced rib, which he hurt while making a leaping catch Monday. "It's not serious," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "On a scale of 1-to-10, it's not even a one, maybe a three-fourths." He said Soler could return Wednesday. ... Back spasms kept IF Cheslor Cuthbert out of the lineup. ... RHP Justin Grimm threw 20 pitches in his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Omaha. He allowed a run on a hit and a walk and struck out one in 2/3 of an inning. He is on the disabled list with lower back stiffness.
Rays: RHP Jake Faria, who has allowed one or no runs in four of last six starts, is the probable starter for the series finale.
Royals: RHP Jason Hammel will be making his first start since allowing nine runs on Friday at Cleveland.