MLB: Royals, Rays in opposite directions entering series finale

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Michael Wacha will go for his fourth straight victory when the visiting Kansas City Royals, who are on a winning streak of their own, go for a three-game sweep over the struggling Tampa Bay Rays.

Wacha (4-4, 4.45 ERA) has a 2.37 ERA in wins in three consecutive starts, two on the road and then home against the Detroit Tigers. All were quality starts, but in the latter game, the right-hander pitched seven innings, surrendering just two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

After seven seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Wacha has pitched for five other teams over the past five seasons, including going 14-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 2023 with the San Diego Padres.

“The best teams I’ve played on, the starting pitchers go out there and go deep, and can give the guys a chance to win a ballgame,” he said. “It limits the usage of the bullpen. We’ve got some really good guys out there that can get some big-time outs, but try to keep them as fresh as possible by going deep into the game.”

The Royals have won eight straight games, which started with home sweeps of Oakland and Detroit. They have scored at least seven runs in the last six of those games.

Wacha won’t have history on his side, however. In six career starts against the Rays, he is 2-3 with a 6.03 ERA in 31 1/3 innings.

Tampa Bay is trying to end a six-game skid and is coming off a particularly frustrating 7-4 loss in 11 innings on Saturday. The Rays fell behind three times, kept coming back to tie, including in the 10th inning, but ran out of answers after the Royals scored three in the 11th.

Pinch hitter Harold Ramirez lined an RBI single in the seventh inning to tie the game at 3-3, then scored in the 10th on Jonny DeLuca’s double to knot things at 4-4.

“I was really excited. Harold came up and got that hit. That kinda reminded me, that’s us. Come up with that big late hit,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “So encouraged by that, but from that at-bat on, it was a challenge to put runs on the board.”

Four times during their losing streak, the Rays have been held to two or fewer runs.

Tampa Bay right-hander Taj Bradley (1-2, 4.00) has seen the lack of run support firsthand. The Rays have been shut out in his two losses. In his most recent start, he gave up five runs on six hits — including a pair of two-run homers — in a 5-0 loss to the visiting Boston Red Sox. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 10.

Bradley said he “felt good with everything. Just two swings really changed the outcome of the game and kind of made it a hard pill to swallow afterward, but there’s still some highlights that I can be happy about.”

Teammate Richie Palacios said afterward, “Taj’s stuff is electric. When he goes out there, he competes. He knows what he wants to do. It’s tough that we didn’t come out on the top side of the ball.”

Bradley is making just his third start of the season after returning from a right pectoral injury. The second-year pitcher has never faced the Royals.

–Field Level Media

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