KC Royals: 3 big club questions, 3 answers

Some important questions face the Royals as they prepare for four games against the majors' best team.

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For the time being, the KC Royals are no longer the worst team in the majors. Oakland is after losing six straight times, and even if the A's clinch their 20th win against Cleveland tonight, they'll still be bringing up the rear by percentage points.

The Royals, now 20-54 after blowing another early lead and losing to Detroit 9-4 Wednesday, a defeat brought about primarily by poor outings by starter Brady Singer, who gave up five earned runs in seven innings, and reliever Jackson Kowar, who handed the Tigers four unearned runs on four hits in the in the inning he worked, helped themselves a bit by beating Detroit Tuesday. But coupled with Monday's defeat, Wednesday's saddled the Royals with yet another in their long line of series losses.

And brings to mind three questions heading into the next leg of KC's current 10-game road trip, a four-game series with Tampa Bay that begins Thursday evening.

What should KC Royals fans expect from their four contests with Tampa Bay?

Not much. Remember that while Kansas City started the season horrendously and hasn't really improved, the Rays came out and have remained hot—their 52-25 record is baseball's best and they've occupied first place in the American League East since Opening Day.

None of that, especially the scheduled pitching matchups, bodes well for the Royals, who'll face Tampa's best two starters, Shane McClanahan (11-1, 2.12 ERA) and Zach Eflin (8-3, 3.26), in Games 1 and 2. McClanahan, a lefty, leads the majors in wins and ERA and is 1-0 in two career starts against Kansas City. Eflin has lost his last two decisions, but won eight of his first nine decisions. He shut out the Royals in his only career appearance against them.

The Rays haven't announced their Game 3 starter but will send Tyler Glasnow, 2-1, 4.97, to the mound Sunday.

The Royals will counter Thursday night with opener José Cuas, who's 3-0, 4.15 as a reliever this season but has never started or opened a major or minor league game. Friday night, Zack Greinke (1-7, 4.81) will seek his sixth win since returning to Kansas City, while Jordan Lyles (0-11, 6.89) gets Saturday's game and Daniel Lynch, who pitched superbly to beat Detroit 1-0 Tuesday, takes his 1-3, 4.45 record into Sunday's series finale.

Tampa's bats pose much danger for those four starters: the Rays' 119 homers lead the AL, their 428 runs and 689 hits rank second only to Texas, they've stolen an AL-leading 96 bases, and they walk more than any other club in the league.

All things considered, then, don't expect the Royals to sweep. And they might leave Tripicana Field without a win.