LHP Moore exits with injury as visiting Rays fall 4-2 to Royals

Royals' Lorenzo Cain beats the throw home to catcher Ryan Hanigan to score during the sixth inning.

Orlin Wagner

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Matt Moore missed 31 games last year with an elbow injury. The Tampa Bay Rays are hoping the left-hander’s latest elbow issue won’t be as big a problem.

Moore left a 4-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night in the fifth inning with a sore elbow. He grimaced after throwing a changeup to Nori Aoki, which prompted a mound visit from manager Joe Maddon and athletic trainer Ron Porterfield.

”Ron’s take on it was that it was something less than last year,” Maddon said. ”But we still have to get it checked out.”

Moore said he would have a MRI on Tuesday. X-rays taken Monday night showed no damage.

”Maybe it’s a hyperextension, it’s kind of like a bruise,” Moore said. ”It’s hard to find that uncomfortable feeling.”

Moore won 17 games last season, but went on the disabled list last July 31 with a sore elbow and did not return until Sept. 3. He said in spring training the injury was in ”back of his mind.”

”Any injury is like that,” Moore said. ”I hadn’t felt it but I was being careful in spring training and we weren’t facing live hitters yet. It continued to be in the back of my mind until we started facing live hitters. That’s when I completely forgot about it until right now.”

He said he initially felt something in the elbow when facing Alcides Escobar, the batter before Aoki.

”It really came out of nowhere,” Moore said. ”There was no particular pain. I felt it when I was pitching to Escobar, on a changeup, and then I threw two more change-ups to Aoki and I felt it. I actually threw a curveball (to Aoki) to see if I would feel it then, too, but I didn’t. It may have something to do with change-ups in that situation.”

Moore said he considered calling Maddon to the mound in Escobar’s at-bat and then tried to talk him into staying in the game with a 2-2 count on Aoki. Maddon did not even allow Moore to throw a warm up pitch before bringing in Cesar Ramos.

”I thought, ‘Give me a second to collect myself,’ ” Moore said. ”I felt good in the moment. I asked Joe to let me throw a couple of fastballs, but he didn’t.”

Moore said he hopes he can avoid a trip to the disabled list.

”I haven’t thought about that,” Moore said. ”All I can think about is 12 hours from now, tomorrow and the MRI. I can’t really speculate. If I had to guess, structurally things are fine.”

Two innings after Moore left, Royals second baseman Omar Infante was hit in the left jaw by a pitch from Heath Bell. A bleeding Infante walked off the field under his own power.

Jason Vargas took a shutout into the ninth inning for the Royals, and Escobar hit a three-run double.

Vargas (1-0) allowed four hits, walked one and struck out two in eight-plus innings, lowering his ERA to 1.20 in two starts. He lost his shutout bid when Ben Zobrist homered on his second pitch in the ninth.

Greg Holland replaced Vargas and earned his third save, but not before giving up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Matt Joyce.

Escobar was 1 for 19 before his bases-loaded double off the left field wall on a 2-2 pitch from Bell with two outs in the seventh.

Eric Hosmer singled home Aoki, who tripled, in the first inning.

The Rays, who have lost seven straight at Kauffman Stadium, have scored four runs in their four losses this year while going 2 for 33 with runners in scoring position during those defeats.

Evan Longoria had three of the Rays’ six hits.

NOTES: The Royals placed LHPs Tim Collins (strained left elbow) and Francisley Bueno (sprained left little finger) on the disabled list. They recalled RHP Michael Mariot and LHP Donnie Joseph from Triple-A Omaha. … The Rays are 3-14 in road openers. They have not won a road opener since 2010 at Baltimore. … Royals RHP Louis Coleman (bruised right middle finger) threw a bullpen session and could be activated Tuesday, the first day he is eligible to come off the disabled list.