American League victory leader David Price aims for a ninth straight win since mid-June Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Rays host the Kansas City Royals in the middle contest of a three-game set at Tropicana Field.

The Nashville native, who'll turn 27 later this week, was 8-4 on the season after a 9-1 loss to the New York Mets in an interleague game on June 13 in St. Petersburg.

He's 8-0 in 11 starts since while trimming his earned run average from 3.01 to 2.39 and pitching at least seven innings in each outing.

He improved to 16-4 with a 7-0 blanking of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Aug. 16, in which he allowed three hits and struck out eight in seven innings.

Price is 1-0 against the Royals in three outings with a 1.93 ERA.

The No. 1 overall pick from 2007 is opposed by the No. 1 selection from a season earlier, Kansas City's Luke Hochevar, who's split four decisions in seven career starts against the Rays.

He picked up his seventh win of the season with an 8-3 defeat of Cleveland on July 31, but is winless in three August outings while giving up 15 hits and 15 runs in 18 1/3 innings.

Hochevar was touched for three runs on four hits in seven innings of the most recent start, a 3-0 loss to Oakland on Aug. 16.

He's allowed a .277 batting average this season through 137 1/3 innings, which is 25 points higher than the .252 clip he allowed last season and five points higher than his career mark.

On Monday, Jeremy Hellickson struck out six over seven strong innings as the Rays topped the Royals, 5-1.

Hellickson (8-8) allowed just one run on six hits and a walk to earn his first home victory since May 16, a span of seven winless starts.

"I thought I was really good, I got ahead of guys," Hellickson said. "The curveball was really good and I just threw strikes for the most part."

Jeff Keppinger crushed a solo home run, while Desmond Jennings, Jose Lobaton and Elliot Johnson each registered two hits and an RBI as the Rays won their fifth straight contest.

"The offense was good enough," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Lobo (Lobaton), EJ (Johnson), did some nice work, but it all started with the pitching."

Will Smith (4-5) was tagged with the loss after giving up four runs on eight hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.

"Command was off for (Smith) tonight, he was either off the plate or down the middle," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You go back and look at all the replays on the base hit and every time they flashed one up there (on the scoreboard) it was down the middle. He just battled with his command."

Alex Gordon finished with two hits and knocked in the lone run for the Royals, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

The Royals swept a three-game series from the Rays in June in Kansas City. Tampa Bay won the season series in 2011, five games to two.