MLB

Preview: Rays try to salvage series split vs. Royals in afternoon matinee

TV: FOX Sports Sun

TIME: Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay and Kansas City close out a four-game series on Thursday afternoon, but there was an undercurrent of tension lingering after the Rays' 12-1 win over the Royals on Wednesday stemming from an incident in the seventh inning.

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Rays starter Chris Archer, who dominated with 11 strikeouts in eight shutout innings, hit Royals catcher Salvador Perez with a pitch. The two exchanged words before they were separated by the umpires.

"Honestly, there was nothing malicious there," Archer said after the game. "I've had some great interactions with him in the past. Whenever we crossed paths prior to that, we were just saying playful things to each other.

"Just like other times in the past, he's a good hitter. I'm trying to pitch inside. There's no malicious intent with 96 miles an hour."

The Royals weren't so sure. Kansas City manager Ned Yost said the pitch stood out on a night in which the Tampa Bay ace didn't walk a batter.

"It's hard for me to judge intent. It's awfully strange that as good as his command was, that one got away from him," Yost said. "Sal had hit the ball hard twice, but it didn't make any sense. It's hard to fathom if there was intent there or not."

Perez was still upset about the pitch after the game, laying out an expletive-laden tirade when he was asked if the pitch seemed intentional.

"Yeah, of course, he threw at me," said Perez, who had two of the Royals' five hits against Archer. "I think he was mad. I don't think that's the right way. He never throws the first pitch inside -- we see all the reports he has. He never throws inside.

"We don't come out and let the (expletive) guy throw 95 mph and try to hit you. That's (expletive). That's what I think."

The Rays will try to salvage a series split with the Royals. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for Tampa Bay, bringing a 2-1 record and a 2.88 ERA. Odorizzi is coming off a seven-inning outing Saturday against Toronto, when he got the win and struck out six while holding the Blue Jays to three hits.

Odorizzi was with the Royals until he was traded to the Rays in December 2012. He is 1-3 all time with a 5.40 ERA against his former team. His last outing against Kansas City was a win, however, when he went six innings in a 12-0 victory in August.

The Royals will answer with left-hander Jason Vargas, who has been stellar this season with a 4-1 record and a 1.19 ERA. For his career, he is 4-5 with a 3.11 ERA in 11 outings against the Rays, but he hasn't won at Tropicana Field since 2013.

A win would put the Rays at 4-5 to conclude a homestand they entered with high expectations, as they were set to face three teams with poor records: the Miami Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Royals. Winning would also give the Rays positive momentum as they hit the road for the next six games, with three at Boston and three at Cleveland.

The Royals return home Friday to open a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.