Royals look to avoid sweep against Rays

MLB

The Kansas City Royals will try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night after losing the first two games of the three-game set.

The Rays took the second game of the series on Tuesday, 14-7. It was the 14th win for Tampa Bay in the past 17 games against Kansas City, dating to August 2017.

Right-hander Jakob Junis will get the opportunity to turn the tide for the Royals as they wrap up their 10-game homestand. The Royals are 5-4 in that stretch.

Michael Wacha (1-1, 4.20 ERA) is expected to start for the Rays, breaking the string of six straight left-handed starters the Royals have faced. The veteran is 3-2 with a 3.53 ERA in seven games (all starts) against Kansas City.

Junis has been a pleasant surprise for the Royals. He’s 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA. In his career against the Rays, he’s 4-1 (2.28 ERA) in five games, four starts.

This season, Junis has struck out 15 in 12 innings. In his two starts, he has 12 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Junis earned his first win since Sept. 4, 2019, against the Toronto Blue Jays in his last outing. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk and struck out six in the 7-5 win.

“We’re just at that point where we can keep pushing Jake a little bit further,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said after the start against Toronto. “He went out (in his first start) expecting it to be a pretty short outing. Next thing you know, he’s sailing out there through five.

“This one, we were trying to just get him kind of a little more acclimated, pushing that count a little bit higher. But I thought his mentality of how he was going about pitching, it was exactly what we were looking for.”

The Royals hope Carlos Santana can keep his offense going. He had his fourth straight multi-hit game on Tuesday. He’s gone 8-for-15 with three doubles and one home run in that stretch.

“We’ve got a number of guys who are putting together some pretty good at-bats, but Carlos is at the top of that list,” Matheny said.

The Rays celebrated their fifth straight win on the six-game trip. They swept the New York Yankees before winning the first two games vs. Kansas City. The Rays are averaging 7.2 runs per game on the trip after averaging 3.8 in their first 13 games.

The Rays’ recent success is more remarkable considering the number of pitchers on the injured list. They placed LHP Cody Reed on the 10-day IL Tuesday with left-thumb weakness.

“It’s an issue that he’s tried to manage — and give him a lot of credit. He worked hard, managed it well in the offseason,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “That feeling of numbness, or not being able to feel certain parts of his pitching hand, just crept up.”

–Field Level Media

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