Jeremy Hellickson's recent surge came to a sudden stop with one bad inning.
Elliot Johnson had a three three-run homer for his second hit of an eight-run sixth inning against Hellickson Thursday night, leading the surging Kansas City Royals to a 10-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hellickson (4-3), coming off two consecutive wins, gave up eight runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings. He retired his first nine batters before Alex Gordon opened the fourth with a single.
"He was pitching well and all of sudden it went away quickly as you saw," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Got a couple changeups up and they were hit, and that was it."
Hellickson has allowed multirun innings in 10 of his 14 starts this season.
"I'm pretty frustrated," Hellickson said. "It wasn't a fun game. Eight runs, it's unacceptable. It's definitely not pitch selection. I've just got to execute whatever I throw. I wish I could, maybe, spread around the hits, one here one there instead of five, six in a row."
Tampa Bay has lost four of five, with the starting pitchers giving up 28 runs in 25 2-3 innings.
"We need all of our starters to pitch better," Maddon said. "We've been seeing way too much of our middle relief pitchers. Getting the starters to go deeper into the game with leads, which is our DNA. We can't do it this way. We can't do it relying on so many innings to be absorbed by the bullpen."
Johnson, who was traded to Kansas City by the Rays in February, led off the big inning with a single and chased Hellickson with his second homer of the season, both coming against Tampa Bay.
Johnson got his third hit of the game in the eighth inning and is 6 for 11 with four RBIs against his former team while batting .202 with three RBIs against every other team.
"It's the first time I've been back here," Johnson said. "I had good years here, but I've moved on. I play for the Royals now."
Ervin Santana (5-5) gave up five hits and an unearned run in 7 2-3 innings.
The Royals, who have won eight of nine, set a franchise record by holding an opponent to three runs or fewer in a 12th straight game.
Johnson led off the sixth inning of a scoreless game with a single. After Alcides Escobar's double, Gordon drove in the first run with Kansas City's third straight hit. Three more singles and an RBI double by Miguel Tejada preceded Johnson's three-run homer to give the Royals an 8-0 lead. In all the Royals sent 11 men to the plate in the inning.
"I just fell behind to Elliot, the first batter of the inning, and just couldn't stop it after that," Hellickson said. "Thought I made some OK pitches there that got hit pretty hard. I really don't know what to say right now."
It was the Royals' biggest inning of the season, exceeding the seven runs they scored in the third inning at Los Angeles on May 15.
Eric Hosmer's home run off Jake Odorizzi made it 9-1 in the seventh.
Gordon had two hits in raising his road batting average to .381, compared to .231 at home.
Matt Joyce had two hits for the Rays.
NOTES: After the game Tampa Bay optioned Odorizzi to Triple-A Durham and reinstated RHP Alex Cobb from the bereavement list. ... Rays LHP David Price (strained left triceps) threw 54 pitches over three innings in a simulated game. The AL Cy Young Award winner could rejoin the rotation in late June or early July. ... Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria got his second break from playing on the artificial turf in five games, getting the start as the DH. Kelly Johnson made his first big league start this season at third in place of Longoria. ... Tampa Bay LHP Matt Moore (8-2) looks to stop a two-game skid, in which he allowed 15 runs, in Friday night's game with the Royals. RHP Luis Mendoza (1-3) will start for Kansas City.
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