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Updated: Friday, August 8, 2003 11:36 PM EDT
Kansas City Royals
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0 4 1
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
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4 9 1
W Gonzalez (5-5)
L Appier (7-8)
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Ticker) -- Kevin Appier 's return to the Kansas City Royals was spoiled by his teammates' inability to generate offense against Jeremi Gonzalez .

Appier pitched five effective innings, but Gonzalez combined with Jesus Colome on a four-hitter as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays knocked the Royals out of first place with a 4-0 blanking.

In his first start for the Royals since July 27, 1999, Appier (7-8) gave up two runs in the first inning and five hits. He suffered his first loss in nine career decisions against Tampa Bay as Gonzalez held Kansas City to three hits in eight innings.

"It was pretty good," said Appier, who signed Wednesday after he was released by Anaheim. "But it was not good enough today, especially when a guy throws a shutout against you. In the first, my slider wasn't very sharp. After the first, I started making corrections and threw the ball better."

"He threw the ball well," Royals manager Tony Pena said. "It was a nice effort. After the first inning, he settled down and he had better location as the game went on. I was pleased the way he threw the ball. He gave me five innings, and that was long enough."

Despite Appier's solid outing, the Royals tied a season high with their fourth straight loss. The defeat dropped them into second place in the American League Central one-half game behind the Chicago White Sox .

It's the first time Kansas City has not occupied the top spot since June 30.

"Winning teams bounce back and hopefully, we come out hungry and mean tomorrow and play better," Appier said.

After struggling in the opening inning, Appier yielded just two more hits.

But Gonzalez was even sharper, escaping a jam in third inning. After Aaron Guiel singled and Joe Randa walked, Carlos Beltran lined hard to right fielder Aubrey Huff .

"Jeremi pitched a really excellent ballgame," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. "He pitched eight real solid innings of baseball. To me, it looks like Gonzalez always got good stuff. I think it has been a godsend for our young pitchers to see how he competes."

The Royals' biggest threat after the third came in the sixth. Randa doubled with one out and Raul Ibanez drew a two-out walk. But Mike Sweeney flied out and Kansas City had just two baserunners thereafter.

Gonzalez (5-5) walked three, struck out four and turned in his second straight strong outing against the Royals.

"It's good to win, especially since I lost last time," said Gonzalez, who allowed two runs and four hits in eight innings on Sunday at Kansas City. "I think I proved to myself and everyone I can still pitch in the big leagues."

Colome worked the ninth and allowed a one-out base hit to Sweeney. But he retired Desi Relaford and Ken Harvey to secure the Devil Rays ' eighth win in 11 games.

"When we played them in Kansas City, (Rob) Bell and Gonzalez threw very well against us," Pena said. "Gonzalez was working both sides of the plate and making our hitters chase the slider."

Tampa Bay staked the righthander to an early lead as Huff plated Antonio Perez with his 39th double. Huff moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Rocco Baldelli 's base hit up the middle for a 2-0 lead.

Marlon Anderson made it 3-0 in the sixth with an RBI single off D.J. Carrasco. Julio Lugo 's bunt hit in the eighth capped the scoring for the Devil Rays .

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