Niemann, who was outstanding in his first start against the Royals, looks to help the Rays remain unbeaten in the season series as the teams continue a four-game set Saturday at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (56-47) improved to 7-0 against Kansas City (40-62) this year with an 8-2 win on Friday night in this series’ opener. Rays pitchers have a 2.29 ERA against the Royals this season.
At home, Tampa Bay has posted a 2.74 ERA in winning 20 of its last 25 games versus Kansas City.
David Price(notes) gave the Rays an excellent start in the teams’ latest matchup. Tampa Bay now sends Niemann (9-5, 3.81 ERA) to the mound, hoping he can provide another strong effort against the Royals.
The best start of Niemann’s career was against Kansas City on June 3. The right-hander’s bid for a perfect game ended when Mark Teahen(notes) singled to center in the fifth, but he ended up striking out nine en route to a two-hitter in a 9-0 victory.
It was Niemann’s first appearance versus the Royals.
Niemann, though, is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, giving up five runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings of Tampa Bay’s 5-1 loss to Toronto on Sunday. He had a 1.06 ERA in winning his previous two outings.
Kansas City will counter with Bruce Chen(notes) (0-5, 6.39), who continues to seek his first victory since Oct. 2, 2005, when he pitched for Baltimore. He lasted five innings in his last outing, yielding three runs and eight hits before the Royals rallied to beat the Orioles 5-3 on Monday night.
The veteran left-hander is 3-1 with a 4.45 ERA in nine starts and four relief appearances versus the Rays.
The left-handed hitting Pena hit the left field pole with his homer.
“Going the other way with strength and power is always a good sign, I think, for any hitter,” said Pena, who entered the game in a 6 for 53 (.113) slump.
The first baseman is batting .371 (13 for 35) with five homers and 15 RBIs in his last 10 home games against the Royals.
Kansas City’s lineup, meanwhile, continues to struggle. The Royals have lost 14 of their last 17 games, scoring three runs or fewer 10 times during that span.