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TB@KC: Gordon jacks a three-run homer to right

KANSAS CITY -- It wasn't exactly Baseball 101, but a couple of Royals conducted classes on Wednesday.

Alex Gordon taught "Introduction to the Wonders of the Home Run," and Jeremy Guthrie lectured on "Strength and Value of a Strong Rotation" in a seminar at Kauffman Stadium.

Give the Royals an A-plus as they passed the test, 7-3, against the Tampa Bay Rays on a pleasant afternoon for 13,612, and closed out a homestand with wins in four of six games. That evened their record at 4-4.

"It was a great homestand for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We came in here after two real close losses at Detroit where we could've won either game and put together a 4-2 homestand."

The Royals' first home run this season -- on their 249th at-bat in eight games -- was a majestic, soaring example of the craft by Gordon.

Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler were on base after two-out singles in the fifth inning, when Gordon laid into an 0-1 pitch from right-hander Jake Odorizzi. For a moment, the ball seemed destined to fall into Wil Myers' glove, but it kept carrying and carrying, finally dropping over the right-field wall for a three-run joy ride.

As the ball left his bat, Gordon's immediate reaction was "home run."

"When I hit it, yes, and as I saw it, I kind of did a nice little pose. But then when I saw Wil kind of drifting back on it, I thought there might be a chance it'd stay in. And with this park, you just never know -- it's so big," Gordon said. "I keep waiting for the owners to move the fences in, but they keep moving 'em back so there's no cheap home runs here."

Never before had the Royals gone through their first seven games of a season without a home run, and they were the only Major League team without one in 2014. Now they can close the book on that unlikely stretch.

Odorizzi, the right-hander sent to the Rays in the famous deal also involving Myers, James Shields and Wade Davis, had made his Major League debut for the Royals in 2012.

"He's a good pitcher and he has a good changeup," Gordon said. "He was throwing a lot of stuff softer, and so I was looking for the soft stuff and I was able to get in front of a changeup and put a good swing on it. I saw enough of the changeups that I was finally able to get one."

Odorizzi thought the stout wind blowing across Kauffman Stadium helped Gordon.

"The Gordon pitch was a split, he went down and got it and put it up in the air," Odorizzi said. "And you can see what happens when you get one up in the breeze today. It just kept blowing and barely got out. So I'm not too worried about it. It's just something that happened."

That made the fifth a five-run inning. Two earlier runs counted on Lorenzo Cain's infield single, Nori Aoki's triple into the right-field corner and Johnny Giavotella's sacrifice fly.

The Royals warmed up with two runs in the fourth with Giavotella, Hosmer and Gordon getting the hits. Gordon's four RBIs matched his single-game high, achieved seven times.

The Rays' Desmond Jennings got to Guthrie with a leadoff home run in the fourth, but that was it off the right-hander, who turned 35 on Tuesday.

"Jeremy Guthrie was spot-on nails today," Yost said. "Made one mistake to Jennings that he drove over the center-field fence, but for him to get us through seven innings the way he did was spectacular for us."

That's because Yost didn't want to use either closer Greg Holland or setup man Wade Davis in Wednesday's game.

"Because Holly's been used four out of the last five days and Wade with 30 pitches last night, we were down to a four-man bullpen," Yost said. "So again, the starters picked us up big-time and got us deep into the game."

In his seven innings, Guthrie held the Rays to four hits and walked one, throwing 109 pitches. That has become something of a happy habit for the Royals' starters.

The rotation of Guthrie, Shields, Jason Vargas, Bruce Chen and Yordano Ventura has combined for an ERA of 1.86 in the eight games so far.

According to Guthrie, a part of that success lies with the defense.

"The biggest thing is it just gives you big breaks, big breathers when balls that could've dropped or should've dropped, on a lot of teams, get caught and plays get made," Guthrie said.

"That's kind of the sigh of relief I got today on the ball hit to shallow left center that [Alcides] Escobar caught . . . where you're already preparing for first and second, one out and how am I going to get out of this -- and he makes a great catch and you've got two outs."

That came in the second inning, when Escobar raced into short left field, back to the infield, and -- surviving a high hop out of his glove -- caught Ryan Hanigan's pop fly.

"That was a hard play," Escobar said. "For one moment, I thought I lost the ball in the sun. Then I saw it again. I was running all the way with my back to home plate and I was able to make it, but it was a hard play."

So were a couple of other grabs of difficult ground balls that Escobar scooped up.

"I don't think you can play a better shortstop today than he played today -- on any level on this Earth," Yost said. "He was spectacular."

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