Rays-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays concluded the interleague portion of their schedule on a positive note.

The same can't be said for the Kansas City Royals.

The visiting Rays hope to build on an encouraging final day of interleague action in Monday night's series opener against a Royals team looking to bounce back after being swept.

After losing seven of nine to NL clubs, Tampa Bay (40-32) swept a day-night doubleheader from Philadelphia on Sunday. In the opener, Carlos Pena hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Rays to a 3-2 victory, while in the nightcap Brooks Conrad had a pair of two-run doubles in a 7-3 win.

Unlike Tampa Bay, Kansas City (31-39) had been enjoying facing NL teams, winning seven of nine heading into its weekend set with St. Louis. The Royals were no match for the Cardinals, however, surrendering 30 runs and 41 hits while getting swept.

"It's real disappointing any time you drop three straight,'' Mike Moustakas said after Sunday's 11-8 loss.

The Royals dropped their final five meetings of last season's series with the Rays, although the injured Evan Longoria played a big role, hitting a homer while driving in seven runs.

Longoria's absence might not be so critical if Alex Cobb (3-3, 3.82 ERA) can pitch like he did his last time out.

Cobb allowed two hits and a walk while striking out a career-high 10 in a 3-0 win over Miami on June 17. He had posted a 6.27 ERA in losing his previous three starts.

"I felt great the last three outings," the right-hander said. "(This) turned out to be one of my better outings.''

Cobb's best start of his 2011 rookie season came in Kansas City on July 24, when he gave up six hits and walked none over seven innings of a 5-0 win.

The Royals counter with Luke Hochevar (4-7, 5.65), who is also trying to build on one of his best outings.

In Thursday's 2-0 win over Houston, Hochevar carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and ended up allowing five hits in a season-best 7 2-3 to earn his first victory since May 12. After recording a 9.00 ERA in his first six starts, the right-hander has a 3.78 ERA in his last eight.

"It's starting to come together," Hochevar told the Royals' official website. "The main thing is making good pitches. That's where my focus has been. That's where I plan on staying. Just going out and executing quality pitches one at a time."

Hochevar went 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA in two starts against the Rays last season.

Pena is 6 for 12 with a double lifetime against Hochevar.

Moustakas is batting .382 with three homers and seven RBIs in his last eight games for the Royals, and went 3 for 5 with two homers Sunday while hitting third for the second time this season.

"It was fun getting back in the three-hole, I've haven't been there in a while, so it was good to finally get back in the spot," he said.

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