The start of June has not been kind to Tampa Bay's Matt Moore.
After dominating for the first two months of the season, the left-hander looks to avoid a third straight losing start when he tries to help the host Rays cool off the surging Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Moore (8-2, 3.78 ERA) went 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his first 11 starts, which included a one-inning effort during a rain-marred 9-2 win at Cleveland on May 31.
However, since the calendar turned, Moore has allowed 15 runs, 19 hits and walked seven in seven innings to lose his last two. He lasted two innings in a 10-1 loss at Detroit on June 4, then gave up career highs of nine runs and 12 hits in five innings of a 10-7 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
"The 8-0 start is obviously gone,'' Moore said. "It's something that, maybe, was a bit misleading I guess you could say."
A lack of command continues to plague Moore, who has yielded half of his total runs this season in June.
"Not bad stuff, but the location was not good,'' manager Joe Maddon said after Moore's last start. "This whole season, really, he has not been a command kind of a pitcher.
"Earlier in the season he might have been making mistakes that were not being hit. It's not like it's entirely different than early, it's just that the command right now is a little off with his off-speed stuff.''
In Moore's only previous start versus Kansas City (31-33), he gave up four runs in 7 1-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 loss last year.
While Tampa Bay (35-31) has dropped two straight and four of five, the Royals have outscored their opponents 42-16 while winning eight of nine.
Ex-Ray Elliot Johnson had three hits, including a three-run homer for one of his two hits during Kansas City's eight-run sixth-inning in Thursday's 10-1 series-opening victory. Ervin Santana threw 7 2-3 strong innings as the Royals set a franchise record by holding an opponent to three runs or fewer in a 12th straight game.
"Everything is going our way right now so we have to keep that up,'' Santana said.
Traded by the Rays to Kansas City in February, Johnson is 6 for 11 with two homers and four RBIs in three victories versus Tampa Bay this year. He's batting .202 with three RBIs in his other 39 games played in 2013.
"It's good to get them anyway you can, but it feels good to get them against them, of course," Johnson said.
Teammate Luis Mendoza (1-3, 4.19) takes the mound looking to build on his best outing of the season. He allowed four hits in seven innings, but didn't factor in the decision of a 2-0 win over Houston on Sunday.
Though the right-hander last won May 13, he's posted a 2.25 ERA while going 0-1 in his last five starts. The Royals, however, have totaled 10 runs in those contests.
Mendoza is 0-1 with an 8.64 ERA in two starts versus Tampa Bay. He allowed six runs and three homers in four innings before leaving without a decision in a 9-8 home win over the Rays on May 1.
Tampa Bay's Matt Joyce is 3 for 5 with a double and a home run against Mendoza. He had two hits Thursday and is 8 for 20 (.400) in the last five games.