Kansas City (41-63) at Tampa Bay (57-48)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 61° F
  • Game info: 12:08 pm EDT Mon Aug 3, 2009
  • TV: FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A series with the Kansas City Royals figured to help the Tampa Bay Rays in their pursuit of the AL East’s top teams, but manager Joe Maddon’s club will have to go through the major league’s ERA leader if it hopes to avoid merely splitting the four-game set.

Looking for his first win since June 28, Zack Greinke(notes) still presents a big challenge Monday for a Rays lineup that has been inconsistent lately.

After winning the first two games of this series, Tampa Bay improved to 8-0 against the AL-worst Royals this year. On Sunday, though, James Shields(notes) carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning before the Rays crumbled late and lost 4-1.

“If a guy takes a no-hitter into the eighth and you still beat him that day, then it’s a good team effort,” Royals starting pitcher Brian Bannister(notes) said.

Ben Zobrist(notes) hit a ninth-inning home run for the Rays (57-48), who slipped six games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East and 5 1/2 behind Boston for the wild card.

Tampa Bay scored 15 runs in the first two games of the series, but its bats have occasionally faltered during a sluggish 13-13 stretch since the beginning of July. The Rays tallied three or fewer runs 14 times over that span, including the perfect game tossed against them by the Chicago White Sox’s Mark Buehrle(notes) on July 23.

It likely won’t be much easier against Greinke (10-6, 2.08 ERA), but the ace hasn’t been able to stop the Royals from losing lately. The right-hander, still a strong contender for the AL Cy Young Award, went 0-3 in five July starts despite posting a 2.53 ERA.

Kansas City was shut out twice last month with Greinke on the mound, and the team scored a total of six runs while losing all of his appearances.

“We have found a way to lose a lot (in July) no matter how it is,” Greinke said. “Just been a real bad month for everyone.”

The Royals (41-63) went 7-19 last month, and Greinke didn’t get a decision in a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay on July 18 after he allowed one run and nine hits in seven innings. The Florida native is 0-2 with a 3.09 ERA in five career starts against Tampa Bay.

He’s dominated several of the Rays’ top hitters, as Carlos Pena(notes) is 2 for 18 (.111) with nine strikeouts and Carl Crawford(notes) is 1 for 16 (.063) against him. Evan Longoria(notes) and Pat Burrell(notes) are a combined 0 for 13.

Just as he did last month, Greinke will match up with Scott Kazmir(notes). After losing a chunk of his season to a quadriceps injury, Kazmir (5-6, 6.22) has often struggled with efficiency.

The left-hander allowed one run and four hits in six innings against Kansas City, then was tagged for five runs and five hits over six innings during Buehrle’s perfect game. Kazmir then tossed a season-high seven-plus frames Tuesday in a 6-2 victory over the Yankees, giving up one run and five hits for his first win since May 9.

“People have been wanting more out of him, but he’s been putting himself back together slowly,” Maddon said.

Kazmir will face one of the weakest offenses in the majors as the Royals lineup has totaled 15 hits in its last three games. Kansas City is averaging 3.5 runs in its last 75 games - losing 52 - but it can finish its road trip at 4-4 with a win in this contest.

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Starting Pitchers

Z. Greinke ARI vs. S. Kazmir LAD
16-8 Record 10-9
2.16 ERA 4.89
242 K 117
51 BB 60
1.07 WHIP 1.42

Scoreboard

Monday, Aug 3