St. Petersburg, Fla. — Not even Kevin Appier could stop the Kansas City Royals' recent slide.
Jeremi Gonzalez scattered three hits in eight innings, and Tampa Bay spoiled Appier's first start since rejoining Kansas City as the Devil Rays beat the Royals, 4-0, Friday night.
Appier (7-8) signed with his original team Wednesday just one week after being released by Anaheim. He gave up two runs and five hits in five innings and struck out two and walked one in his first start for the Royals since July 27, 1999.
"It was pretty good," Appier said. "The only unfortunate thing is it wasn't good enough today. How many would be if a guy throws a shutout against us?"
The Royals, 9-13 since the All-Star break, fell out of first place in the American League Central for the first time since July 1. Kansas City dropped a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox, who beat Oakland, 3-2.
"Winning teams bounce back," Appier said. "You can't hang your head or lose confidence. Just be hungry and mean tomorrow, and hopefully we can turn it around real quick."
Kansas City led the AL Central by 71/2 games July 17.
Gonzalez (5-5) struck out four and walked three as the Devil Rays won for the eighth time in 11 games and sent the Royals to their fourth straight loss. Jesus Colome worked the ninth to complete Tampa Bay's fourth shutout of the season.
"He has a big heart," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said of Gonzalez. "He has good stuff to go with it. He competes."
Appier struggled in the first inning, when Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead on Aubrey Huff's RBI double and a run-scoring single by Rocco Baldelli.
But Appier settled down and gave up just two more hits over his final four innings.
"He had a real tough first inning, but after that he settled down and started making his pitches," Royals manager Tony Pena said. "I was pleased with the way he threw the ball."
The Royals had two on with two outs in the third and sixth innings, but failed to score. Carlos Beltran hit a hard liner that was caught by right fielder Huff to end the third and Mike Sweeney flew out to center in the sixth.
"Our ballclub played pretty good defense," Gonzalez said. "They backed me up tonight."
Gonzalez threw his first complete game since 1998 in a 2-0 loss at Kansas City last Sunday. It's just the third time the Royals have been shut out this season.
The Royals activated Sweeney from the 15-day disabled list before the game. Sweeney, who missed 45 games because of back and neck nerve irritation, went 1-for-4 as the DH.
Marlon Anderson gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead with an RBI single in the sixth off D.J. Carrasco.
Tampa Bay took a 4-0 lead in the eight on Julio Lugo's bunt single.
Notes: Appier, 35, pitched for the Royals from 1989-99 and was 114-89. ... Gonzalez, the subject of trade talks, said he wanted to finish his career with the Devil Rays. ... Kansas City acquired RHP Paul Abbott from Arizona for minor league LHP Aric Leclair. Abbott is scheduled to start Monday's game against the New York Yankees. ... Kansas City 3B Joe Randa was hit just above the right elbow at second base by Gonzalez's pickoff attempt in the sixth. Randa, who left one inning later, also jammed his left wrist getting back to the base. ... Appier entered 8-0 in his career against Tampa Bay. ... Huff's first-inning double was his 39th, tying the team record set last season by Randy Winn. ... Baldelli went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. The rookie is in a 2-for-24 slump. ... Royals RHP Nate Field was optioned to Triple-A Omaha to make room for Sweeney.