|Royals hope bats stay hot for trip to Tampa|
The Kansas City Royals will head to Tampa Bay with some offensive momentum, even if they are coming off three straight defeats to the New York Yankees.
The Royals will need it, since they are facing a Rays pitching staff that has proven itself to be one of the best in baseball during the first month of the season.
And that staff figures to be focused with Tampa Bay on a four-game losing streak, after the Rays were swept by the resurgent Boston Red Sox in a three-game series.
The Royals scored six runs in the eighth inning Sunday against the Yankees to take a late lead, only to see the slim advantage slip away when New York tied it with a run in the bottom of the eighth and won it on Austin Romine's game-ending single in the 10th.
Kansas City has now lost three consecutive games and five of seven.
The Royals can only hope their rally -- during which Alex Gordon and Hunter Dozier homered -- against New York's bullpen will carry over to the opener of a three-game series against the Rays.
However, Kansas City struck out a team-record 20 times on Sunday and 53 times in the four-game series to set another club record.
"We're definitely swinging at pitches that aren't strikes," manager Ned Yost said. "Big strike zone here in New York for some reason. That played into it too."
The Rays enter following a tough defeat at home against the Red Sox, as they tied the game in the eighth inning on a Tommy Pham home run only to see the Red Sox take the lead for good in the 11th on a sacrifice fly by Christian Vazquez.
The Rays lead the American League with a 2.85 ERA as a staff, a mark that is better than 14 of 15 teams from the National League, whose pitchers don't have to face a designated hitter.
Getting over the hump offensively has been the issue during the four-game losing streak, as the Rays lost three of those games by one run and the other by two runs.
It won't help the offense that Austin Meadows just landed on the 10-day injured list with a right thumb sprain. He had a hit in nine of his last 10 games, including a recent three-game stretch where he had 10 hits and nine RBIs. It was an effort that earned him AL Player of the Week honors.
"I don't know if you replace the player of the week," said Rays manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. "What he's done for us has been pretty instrumental to us getting off to a hot start. Now we're going to need some other guys to fill that void."
One of those players will be Joey Wendle, who returned from the IL on Sunday after recovering from a left hamstring injury. Wendle, who finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting last season, went 0-for-5 in his return and is still looking for his first hit in 12 at-bats.
Royals right-hander Brad Keller (2-1, 2.64 ERA) will start Monday. He has just one scoreless inning against the Rays in his brief career. Keller was suspended five games for hitting the White Sox's Tim Anderson with a pitch in his previous outing, but he has appealed the discipline.
The Rays will have right-hander Yonny Chirinos (3-0, 3.26) on the mound. He gave up three runs in five innings to the Royals last season, earning his second career victory.
--Field Level Media