Kansas City concludes their nine-game road trip against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field starting tonight. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Royals (45-42) at Rays (41-50)

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The final road trip of the first half for Kansas City takes place in St. Pete against Tampa Bay. After losing two of three at Cleveland, the Royals will look to rebound against the red hot Rays at the Trop.

With this being the final meeting this season between these teams, we reached out to Robbie Knopf of Rays Colored Glasses. Here are the answers to the questions I was asked.

Kings of Kauffman – What’s been the cause of the turnaround?
RCG –
The cause of the turnaround has been a vastly improved offense, a rotation coming together, and a bullpen that has finally figured out what’s going on. Ben Zobrist and Kevin Kiermaier in particular have looked great at the plate, David Price, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi have dominated off the hill, and Jake McGee has emerged as the de facto closer. Before it seemed like everyone on the Rays was struggling. Now it’s like everyone is on fire. I guess that’s baseball.

KOK – Will Tampa Bay trade David Price?
RCG –
The Rays aren’t 100% going to trade David Price anymore. At this point, they have a real chance to win the AL East–no one is pulling away, and this team is on fire. That being said, the Rays aren’t going to pass on a once-in-a-lifetime package (or twice counting the Wil Myers deal) if the right one comes around. The Rays are better with Price, but they have the pitching to potentially contend without him if they get the right offer.

KOK – Can the Rays turn it around and be a threat in the second half?
RCG –
Pending a series of trades (more than just Price), the Rays can definitely be a second half threat. This team was picked for the World Series at the beginning of the year, and in the last month, they are finally starting to play up to that standard. This team will make a run towards the playoffs, and even if they never get there, they will be a team that no one in baseball wants to play.

KOK – Reaction James Shields will get at the trop?
RCG –
James Shields will be cheered for at the Trop. He had a great run in Tampa Bay, and everyone appreciated how dependable he was–he remains the most reliable pitcher the Rays have ever had. There will be a scattered boo or two, but nothing more than that.

KOK – Series prediction
RCG –
This is going to be an interesting series. Game 1 pits Shields against Jake Odorizzi, and with the two pitchers trending in opposite directions, I’ll pick Odorizzi and the Rays. Game 2 will see Jeremy Hellickson making his 2014 debut against Jason Vargas, and I bet that Hellickson does OK but Vargas is better and the Royals win. Finally, in Game 3, it will be Alex Cobb versus Yordano Ventura. Cobb is long overdue for a big start, and I think it finally comes in this game. I’ll pick the Rays to win the series and continue their hot streak.

Probable Pitching Match-ups:
Monday, 6:10 pm – James Shields/RHP (8-4, 3.93) v. Jake Odorizzi/RHP (4-7, 4.18)
Tuesday, 6:10 pm – Jason Vargas/LHP (8-3, 3.32) v. Jeremy Hellickson/RHP (1st start of 2014)
Wednesday, 6:10 pm – Yordano Ventura/RHP (6-7, 3.07) v. Alex Cobb/RHP (4-6, 4.28)

Comments on Pitching Match-ups – In the opener Royals and Rays will get to see the latest edition of the Shields-Wil Myers trade. “Big Game” James will also be making his first start at Tropicana Field since being traded. Game two features Vargas against Hellickson who’s making his first start of the season. For me the finale is the most appealing game with two good young pitchers going head-to-head with Ventura and Cobb.

Series Predictions – This series has three good pitching match-ups which will be decided by who can hit. Tampa Bay has been reeling off plenty of wins recently, including sweeping the Tigers in Detroit over the weekend. Can KC rebound from their series against the Indians before getting home this weekend? Prediction: Rays take two of three

2014 Meetings:
Three months to the day, these teams opened their last series against one another at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City took two of three with Vargas (W 4-2) and Jeremy Guthrie (W 7-3) picking up victories while Greg Holland (L 1-0)took the defeat in the lone defeat.

Franchise History:
Tampa Bay holds an all-time lead of 69-60 against the boys in blue which includes a 42-26 advantage at Tropicana Field. The Royals have won four of the last six games played against the Rays in the Sunshine State.

TV/Radio Coverage:
All three games are on Fox Sports Kansas City with Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler on the broadcast. Joel Goldberg and is joined by Jeff Montgomery on Royals Live before and after the game. As always every game can be heard on the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC) with Ryan Lefebvre and Steve Stewart calling the action from St. Pete.

2014 Series Schedule/Results v. Rays: (KC 2-1)
April 7-9, Kauffman Stadium – W 4-2, L 1-0, W 7-3
July 7-9, Tropicana Field

Game Notes:    
Tampa Bay Rays
Kansas City Royals

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