KANSAS CITY -- The Rays displayed some late-inning magic, but the Royals countered with some of their own.
Despite rallying back to tie the game in the eighth, the Rays couldn't avoid a three-game sweep with a 5-4 loss on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Tampa Bay had just plated a pair on a Ben Zobrist triple to knot the score at 4, but reliever Burke Badenhop gave up a solo home run to Billy Butler in the bottom of the inning.
"I got behind him, I threw a really flat sinker, he hit the [heck] out of it," Badenhop said. "You're fine if you get beat with your best. That right there wasn't, obviously, my best. Just pitch selection. I should've attacked him a little bit better than I did."
"The only thing I knew was he had a sinker and a slider. And I knew the velocity," Butler said. "[The pitch] was a sinker up, so it just kind of ran and that's how I got underneath it. ... That's what you want from a sinkerball guy, an elevated pitch."
After scoring just four runs in the series' first 25 innings, the Rays finally broke through in the eighth against reliever Tim Collins. Trailing, 4-2, Carlos Pena reached on an error and Jeff Keppinger walked. Two batters later, Zobrist smashed a triple into the right-field corner to drive in both runners.
"It was very nice to get that, get a couple runs, just tie it up. It felt like we hadn't really had that for the last three days," Zobrist said. "Thankful for that, but they just kept coming back at us.
"That's the way the game goes sometimes. [Butler] did exactly what they needed right there, which was a big hit. And he came up with it. Great job to Billy. He hit the ball well all series, as did most of their guys."
Quality starting pitching silenced the Rays' bats in the series. In three games, Tampa Bay scored six runs and hit .229 as a team. On Wednesday, it was Kansas City lefty Everett Teaford, who was called up from Triple-A to make the start. Teaford held the Rays to two runs on four hits in five innings.
"We had good stuff on him, he just pitched well," manager Joe Maddon said. "He had good command of his changeup, I thought. Really good command of his changeup, and the cutter that he got in. We hit into several double plays, which has really hurt us a lot."
Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore predicted a pitcher-friendly game with temperatures above 100 degrees, but the day wasn't too kind to him. The lefty allowed four runs in a start for the fifth time this season -- going 7 1/3 innings and surrendering four runs on a season-high 10 hits.
Moore gave up a pair of early home runs to Mike Moustakas in the first inning -- an estimated 409 feet -- and Alcides Escobar in the third as the Royals jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
"Whoever said solo homers can't beat you, that's just happened to me too much this season," said Moore, who has now allowed 13 home runs, second on the team behind Jeremy Hellickson.
Kansas City struck again in the bottom of the fifth, picking up two more runs on a Yuniesky Betancourt single.
The Rays eventually got on the board in the top of the sixth. B.J. Upton walked to lead things off, and Pena singled through the shift to chase Teaford from the game. Reliever Kelvin Herrera gave up a Keppinger single to center field, bringing home Upton to make it 4-1.
After Brooks Conrad bounced into a double play, Zobrist singled up the middle to bring home Pena and make it a 4-2 deficit.
Conrad's double-play ball with none out was emblematic of some of the squandered opportunities.
Zobrist, despite having three RBIs, was thrown out on the bases three times, including twice at home. Jose Molina grounded into a double play with two on and none out in the fifth, and Rays runners were stranded at the corners with one out in the seventh.
The sweep is the first for the Royals over the Rays since 2001. Tampa Bay ends a long three-city road trip with a 3-6 record. Still, Maddon is happy with the way the team has played.
"A lot of really closely contested games, and it speaks to the spirit of our club," Maddon said. "We're not 100 percent where we would like to be personnel-wise, but I love the fact that the guys out there are trying to play it right. We've made some mistakes, but the intent is good and I love that about our guys."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.