St. Petersburg, Fla. With Albie Lopez on the mound, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays knew they had a chance to win.
Instead of buckling when they fell behind by two runs Tuesday night, the struggling last-place team battled back and beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-2, before a crowd of 11,056, smallest for a home game in the Devil Rays' four-year history.
"From this afternoon until we were down by two, I never felt we were going to lose the ballgame," manager Hal McRae said after Greg Vaughn and Gerald Williams hit two-run homers to back another strong pitching performance by Lopez.
"From the chatter and enthusiasm on the bench, there was a good felling that we were going to come back. My thinking was we were going to have to run our way back into this thing. But we didn't run our way back into it. We swung our way back into it."
Williams' homer off Brian Meadows (0-3) erased a 2-0 deficit in the third. Vaughn chased the Royals starter with his team-leading fifth homer after Williams, who went 3-for-4, singled with one out in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Lopez (3-1) allowed seven hits, walked three and struck out four in seven innings. He has worked at least seven innings in each of his five starts and his three victories are half the team's total for the season.
The right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings in a game the Devil Rays bullpen eventually lost 9-1 to Boston in their debut under McRae last Wednesday. He wasn't as sharp this time, allowing two runs on four hits in the first two innings, but settled after working out of a bases-loaded jam in the third.
"I had to give the team a chance to come back," said Lopez, who improved to 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three career starts against the Royals.
Tampa Bay won for the second time in six games under McRae, who waited more than six years for his second chance to lead a club after serving as the Royals' manager from May 1991 through 1994.