Lima can tie his longest win streak, established from April 14-May 23, 1999, the year he won a career-best 21 games with Houston and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting.
This is the first winning season since that year for Lima, who began 2003 in the Independent Atlantic League, pitching for the Newark Bears, after being released by the Detroit Tigers in the offseason.
The 30-year-old right-hander won 5-1 at Detroit on Sunday, pitching five innings of four-hit ball. He became the first Kansas City pitcher to win seven straight starts since David Cone won eight in 1994.
“I was out of baseball pretty much,” said Lima, who has been limited to five innings per outing due to a groin injury. “But now I’m having fun again.”
The Royals, who are seeking their first playoff berth since 1985, have lost seven of their last 10 games, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the second-place Chicago White Sox. Kansas City’s lead in the division is down to one game after Thursday’s 8-6, 11-inning defeat.
Kansas City acquired right-handed reliever Al Levine from the last-place Devil Rays on Thursday for cash. Levine, 35, was 3-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 35 games with Tampa Bay.
“We feel (Levine) adds some depth and quality to our bullpen,” Royals general manager Allard Baird said. “Tony (Pena) can use him anywhere from a setup man to a guy who bridges the gap. It was very important for us to add more depth to the bullpen.”
The Devil Rays are on their second three-game winning streak of the season after completing a sweep of Toronto at SkyDome with a 7-6 victory Thursday.
Tampa Bay, which also won three in a row from July 3-5, finished 14-12 in July for its first winning month since June 2000 (15-11).
“It’s starting to come together for us a little bit, it really is,” Devil Rays first-year manager Lou Piniella said. “Our pitching is respectable and our offense is coming together.”
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 25 1/2 GB, AL East. Royals - 1st place, AL Central.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Joe Kennedy (3-8, 6.04 ERA). The Devil Rays’ opening day starter, Kennedy hasn’t won since May 13 at Toronto. The 24-year-old left-hander, who spent the month of June on the DL with tendinitis in his shoulder, is 0-5 in his last seven starts, allowing at least three earned runs five times over that stretch. In a 9-1 road loss to the White Sox on Sunday, he gave up five earned runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings. The third-year pitcher is 0-0 with a 2.57 ERA in one career start against Kansas City.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Lima (7-0, 2.17 ERA). Lima is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts against Tampa Bay.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Devil Rays - Rocco Baldelli, .306 avg. and 59 runs; Aubrey Huff, 19 HRs and 58 RBIs; Carl Crawford, 28 SBs. Royals - Raul Ibanez, .299 avg.; Carlos Beltran, 15 HRs and 30 SBs; Beltran and Ibanez, 62 RBIs and 62 runs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: Royals, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - Tampa Bay had not swept a three-game series since last Aug. 30-Sept. 1 against Texas. … 3B Damian Rolls, who homered and drove in three runs Thursday, is 12-for-32 (.375) in his last eight games with two homers and 10 RBIs. … CF Baldelli is batting .344 (11-for-32) during an eight-game hitting streak, with two homers and nine RBIs. Royals - The Royals are 8-4 over the last two seasons against Tampa Bay, including victories in five of the last six meetings at Kansas City. … RHP Levine has a career record of 21-28 with nine saves and a 3.79 ERA in 323 games. He held opponents scoreless in 27 of his 35 outings this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 18-35 on the road; Royals - 29-26 at home.
INJURIES: Devil Rays - INF Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; OF Ben Grieve (blood clot), 15-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL. Royals - INF Mendy Lopez (calf), 15-day DL; 1B Mike Sweeney (back), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL.