Wil Myers was once seemingly a major part of the Kansas City Royals’ future. Instead, he’s trying to help the Tampa Bay Rays return to the playoffs.
A makeup game at Kauffman Stadium on Monday will give Myers the chance to face the Royals for the first time since a blockbuster offseason deal sent him to Tampa Bay.
Myers was consistently one of the top prospects in the majors after being drafted in the third round by Kansas City in 2009, but the Royals were in desperate need of quality starting pitching after their rotation posted the majors’ fifth-highest ERA in 2012.
Kansas City used the outfielder to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis in a seven-player deal in December. Myers has hit .302 since being called up from the minors June 18, but is 5 for 31 (.161) in his last eight games.
The excitement of playing his first major league contest in Kansas City, though, might be just the spark he needs. His last appearance at Kauffman Stadium came at the 2012 Futures Game.
“Now, I’ll have a big league game there,” Myers told the Rays’ official website. “I’m excited to play in Kansas City. I really want to win. That’s the biggest thing.”
While Myers has cooled off, Evan Longoria has been red hot. He’s batting .395 (17 for 43) with six homers, five doubles and nine RBIs in helping the Rays (74-54) win eight of their last 11.
Longoria hit a tying home run in the sixth inning Sunday against the New York Yankees but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete a three-game home sweep, losing 3-2 in 11 innings.
Longoria will try to collect some more hits while improving on a 7-for-17 stretch in his last five games against Kansas City (65-64). The Rays, however, are just 1-5 in this season’s series and have lost five straight at Kauffman Stadium dating to last season.
Tampa Bay will try to end that poor stretch when it faces Jeremy Guthrie, who is 0-3 with a 6.63 ERA in his last three starts. Guthrie (12-10, 4.27 ERA) has given up a combined 32 hits in 19 innings during that losing streak.
The right-hander allowed five runs and eight hits - including three homers - over seven innings in his only matchup with the Rays this season, a 5-3 loss June 15.
Longoria took Guthrie deep in that game, and is 8 for 19 with two homers and three doubles in their meetings since 2011. Teammate Matt Joyce is 7 for 18 with two homers over that same span and is 14 for 36 (.389) with five homers during a nine-game hit streak versus Kansas City.
Opposing Guthrie will be another struggling right-hander, Jeremy Hellickson (10-7, 5.01). Hellickson is 0-4 with an 8.06 ERA in his last five starts and has made it out of the fifth inning in only one of those outings.
He gave up four runs and a pair of homers over 4 1-3 innings in a 4-2 loss in Baltimore on Wednesday.
Hellickson, 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in his last three road starts, was tagged for eight runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings in his most recent meeting with Kansas City, a 10-1 loss June 13. He’s 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA in two matchups this season.
Hellickson will face a team that’s coming off its first win in eight games. The Royals scored two runs in the eighth inning Sunday in a 6-4 win over visiting Washington.
Billy Butler scored one of those runs and is batting .365 in his last 19 games. He’s 5 for 6 with a double against Hellickson this season.
“This game never owes you anything. You can’t be looking for breaks,” Butler said. “You can just play the game hard and hope the ball falls on your side.”