Despite hitting 16 home runs through 10 games, the Devil Rays (4-6) already are at the bottom of the AL East, a spot where the franchise has finished in seven of its eight years of existence.
Kansas City (2-6) is in the AL Central basement after finishing there each of the last two seasons. Part of its early troubles this year is a pitching staff that has served up 15 homers and is allowing opponents to hit .318.
Six homers were among the 35 hits the Royals gave up as they were swept in a three-game set with the New York Yankees this week. Kansas City was outscored 30-15 in the series as its losing streak at Yankee Stadium reached 14 games.
“This is a good time to get out of here,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said.
Going to Tampa Bay might not help matters if Kansas City’s staff performs as it did in its only visit last season, giving up 29 runs as the Royals suffered a four-game sweep.
Ty Wigginton, who has homered in three consecutive games, and the Devil Rays hope to take advantage of Kansas City’s struggling hurlers.
Second baseman Jorge Cantu doubled and scored a run in his first game back in the starting lineup since fouling a ball off his foot last weekend.
Tampa’s lineup could get even healthier on Friday if Sean Burroughs make his Devil Rays debut, having spent the first 10 games on the disabled list due to a strained back. Acquired from San Diego during the offseason, Burroughs took live batting practice Thursday and may be activated for this game.
“I feel strong, I feel good,” Burroughs said. “Everything in my body feels great. I think with the injury bug going around, I need to get back out there as soon as possible.”
The Devil Rays could continue their power surge as they go against Scott Elarton, who lost all three of his starts against them last season as he was ripped for 16 runs and 24 hits in 11 2-3 innings. He had never faced Tampa Bay before 2005.
Elarton has pitched well in his first two starts in a Kansas City uniform. However, the right-hander has been saddled with losses in a pair of 3-1 defeats to Detroit and the Chicago White Sox, allowing a total of five runs and 12 hits over 13 2-3 innings.
Tampa Bay counters with Scott Kazmir, who came within one out of pitching his first major league complete game on Sunday. He allowed 12 hits and two runs, walking one and striking out six in a 5-2 victory over Toronto.
“I need to be the guy who comes in and puts us back on track or keeps a streak going,” Kazmir said. “I’m up for the challenge. I want to be that guy.”
Kazmir gave up six runs in four innings in losing Tampa Bay’s season opener, 9-6 to Baltimore.
The 22-year-old left-hander is 1-0 in two starts against Kansas City despite allowing 10 runs, 11 hits and eight walks in 11 innings.