Rookie Niemann posts 10th victory with 8 sharp innings

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jeff Niemann is not pitching like a typical rookie.

Niemann worked eight dominant innings for his 10th win, Carl Crawford hit a two-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 7-1 on Saturday.

"Good look about him, again," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He's at the point he's gaining confidence. He looks like he expects to win when he goes out there. The way he's pitching is surpassing my expectations."

Niemann (10-5) gave up four hits and struck out seven in his second career start against the Royals. He threw a two-hitter in beating Kansas City 9-0 on June 3.

The 6-foot-9 right-hander has reached the point where he feels like he can win every start.

"Absoultely," Niemann said. "You're going to have good days and bad days. I'm going to go out there every single time and attack the opposing team, and I have confidence to be able to really believe that now."

Tampa Bay (57-47) matched its season-high at 10 games over .500.

Crawford hit a two-run homer during a four-run eighth that extended the Rays' lead to 7-1.

David DeJesus homered off Niemann for the Royals, who have lost 15 of 18. Kansas City is 0-8 against Tampa Bay this season.

Royals starter Bruce Chen (0-6) gave up three runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander, who had elbow ligament-replacement surgery in 2007, last won in the majors on Oct. 2, 2005, at Tampa Bay with Baltimore.

"I've been dying to get a win. I really am," Chen said. "I've been working really hard. I think I'm making progress. I felt like today I could have won, but I just got beat. Niemann did a great job of keeping us off balance."

Chen has appeared in 53 games, including 20 starts, since his last victory. His record is 0-13 over the stretch.

Jason Bartlett drove in two runs with a triple and then scored to make it 3-0 in the second when Royals second baseman Alberto Callaspo was charged with an error for a poor relay throw to third.

The Royals have allowed an AL-leading 56 unearned runs this season.

Kansas City threatened in the fifth, but left fielder Crawford threw out Brayan Pena attempting to score from third on Alex Gordon's flyball.

DeJesus got the Royals to 3-1 during the sixth on his eighth homer of the season, and first since July 9.

The Royals have been outscored 33-7 in losing five times in Florida to the Rays this year.

Kansas City right fielder Mark Teahen left the game because of muscle tightness in his lower back. He is day to day.

"They've beaten us in a bunch of different fashions," Teahen said. "We haven't been able to figure them out to this point."

Game notes
Kansas City RHP Gil Meche, out since July 12 with a lower back strain, is scheduled to make a rehab start Sunday with Class-A Wilmington. ... Tampa Bay signed free agent RHP Jeff Bennett and optioned RHP Joe Nelson to Triple-A Durham. ... Royals RHP Kyle Farnsworth (right groin strain) could throw off a bullpen mound in the next couple days. ... Rays 1B Carlos Pena was out of the starting lineup, but entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth. ... Callaspo was hitless in three at-bats, which stopped his 13-game hitting streak.