The Kansas City Royals take aim at their fifth straight home victory over the Tampa Bay Rays as the clubs resume a three-game series on Wednesday evening.
The Royals swept a three-game home series versus the Rays last June by a 21-6 margin and then took Tuesday's opener by a convincing 8-2 score. The runs came late for Kansas City, which saw Mike Moustakas hit a two-run homer during a four-run sixth inning and start a three-run seventh inning with a sacrifice fly.
Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and Jeff Francoeur each had two hits and knocked in a run for the Royals, who snapped a two-game losing skid and have won four of six overall. They have won six of their last seven at home versus the Rays, who fell to 2-3 on a 10-game road trip.
Facing his former club for the first time since a December trade to the Royals, James Shield gave up a two-run homer to Matt Joyce in the first inning before settling down. He retired the final 13 batters faced to cap a solid seven-inning victory.
"It was a lot of fun facing that team. There's a lot of good memories over there," Shields said.
Kansas City was held off the board through the first 5 2/3 innings by Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb and had been held to just four singles before coming through with six straight two-out hits to chase the right-hander in the sixth inning.
Jeremy Hellickson hopes for better luck tonight as he takes the hill for the Rays.
The right-hander threw seven scoreless innings to beat the Oakland Athletics on April 20, but was touched for a season high-tying five runs over six innings in a loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. He yielded five hits and four walks and struck out eight in the 5-2 decision, giving up three of his runs in the first inning.
"It's kind of frustrating to fall behind early, but I feel good. I just have to make better pitches," said Hellickson, who is 1-2 with a 4.31 earned run average through five starts this season.
The 26-year-old is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three career meetings with the Royals, including two starts. He has held them to a pair of runs and struck out 13 over 15 1/3 innings.
Luis Mendoza makes his first start for the Royals in almost three weeks, having had rain outs and off days wreck havoc on his schedule.
The right-hander's last start came on April 12, a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in which he yielded seven earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. He did get into a game on Wednesday in relief versus the Detroit Tigers and did not allow a run over 2 1/3 frames despite giving up a hit and three walks.
Mendoza, 29, is 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA on the season and has faced the Rays just once before. That was a loss on Aug. 22 of last season despite giving up two runs over 4 1/3 innings. Tampa Bay did touch him for five hits and drew four walks.