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Rolling Royals try to lock up series win against Rays

The red-hot Kansas City Royals hope to keep the ball rolling as they tangle with the Tampa Bay Rays in the third chapter of a four- game set at Tropicana Field.

Billy Butler went 2-for-4 with three RBI and Salvador Perez added two hits and a pair of RBI to lead the Royals past the Rays, 7-2, in the second game of the series on Friday. The victory was the third in a row and ninth in the past 10 games for Kansas City, which enters Saturday trailing Detroit by five games for first place in the AL Central race.

"It's been a fun couple games. It's been a fun stretch here," Butler said. "We had a tough May. June's been great and we just want to continue to play that way."

Butler is 5-for-11 with three RBI and a walk over his past three games while Perez enters on a 10-game hitting streak. The 23-year old catcher's recent hot streak has lifted his batting average to .316 on the season.

Kansas City will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound for the third game of the series. The right-hander registered his seventh win of the season as he lasted 6 1/3 innings against Detroit on Monday. Guthrie has picked up a winning decision in each of his past two starts to improve to 7-3 with a 3.60 ERA on the campaign.

The Royals have not given up more than three runs in a single game this month and lead the AL with a 3.38 ERA.

Matt Joyce hit a solo home run and Evan Longoria had two hits and knocked in a run on Friday for the Rays, who have dropped three straight and five of their last six contests overall. Tampa Bay could not keep pace with the surging Royals though, as it struck out nine times and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

"Until we start pitching like we can, it's going to be tough to get on a nice roll," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to pitch. I don't mean to say that in a manner that's going to pressurize the pitching staff. That's not the point, they know. We have to pitch a lot better to get to the spot we want to this year."

Alex Cobb hopes to get back on track as he takes the hill for the hosts on Saturday. The 25-year old right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits to Boston before being pulled after four innings on Monday.

"I think I was letting the game speed up too much," Cobb said. "A couple of ground balls got through and put me in a jam, and instead of settling down executing pitches, I kind of let the game speed up. ... I made the adjustment way too late, and before I knew it, there were six runs on the board."

Prior to his setback against the Red Sox, Cobb went 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA over his previous three outings. He was reinstated from the bereavement list on Friday.

Tampa Bay has dropped eight of its last 10 games with the Royals.