The AL East-leading Rays seek their third straight win as they wrap up their four-game set against the Royals on Sunday.
Tampa Bay (61-42) had a five-game lead in the division on July 6, but a 6-10 skid has contributed to its advantage being sliced to two games over second-place Boston.
The Rays lost Thursday’s series opener 4-2, but have won each of the last two games by 5-3 scores.
In Saturday’s victory, Carl Crawford’s tiebreaking, two-run triple with two outs in the eighth inning helped Tampa Bay win consecutive games for just the second time in the last three weeks.
“We really needed it. It feels good to contribute,” said Crawford, who had two triples Saturday after going 4-for-22 (.182) with no extra-base hits in his previous five games.
The Rays have not won three in row since a season-high seven-game winning streak June 29-July 6.
Carlos Pena homered in his second straight game Saturday, his 17th of the season. Pena has enjoyed hitting Royals’ pitching lately, as he’s batting .435 (20-for-46) with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and 15 runs in his last 12 games against them.
He has never faced Sunday’s scheduled starter Kyle Davies (3-2, 4.58 ERA), who makes his first career start against Tampa Bay
Davies was 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his first four starts after the Royals (46-59) recalled him on May 31, but has gone 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in his last six.
The right-hander hasn’t won since June 17, and again labored against Detroit on Thursday. He needed 96 pitches to go four innings, and gave up two runs, five hits and one walk in a 7-1 loss.
“The No. 1 thing as a pitcher is not velocity, it’s not stuff, it’s location of pitches,” Davies told the team’s official Web site. “If you can’t locate, they’re going to take balls and swing at strikes, and that’s what happened.”
The Royals have lost five of their last six, averaging 2.7 runs and batting only .222 in those games.
Mark Grudzielanek matched a career high with three doubles Saturday after getting three doubles in his last 21 games combined.
Tampa Bay’s Andy Sonnanstine (10-5, 4.54) looks to avoid losing his third straight start Sunday.
Sonnanstine has yielded nine runs in 12 1-3 innings in losing his last two starts after going 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in his previous five. On Tuesday, the right-hander gave up three runs and five hits in seven innings of an 8-1 loss to Oakland.
Before his current slump, Sonnanstine had one of his best outings of the year, as he allowed five hits and one walk in seven innings of a 3-0 win over the Royals on July 5.
In his only other start against Kansas City on July 7, 2007, Sonnanstine gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings of an 8-7 loss at Kauffman Stadium, but was not a factor in the decision.
The Rays have won five of seven over the Royals this season.