(AP) Strong pitching continues to pace the Kansas City Royals during their recent surge.
Jeremy Guthrie looks to continue that success on the mound and help the visiting Royals to a fourth straight victory Saturday against the struggling Tampa Bay Rays.
Luis Mendoza gave up two runs with six hits and three Kansas City (32-33) relievers pitched three hitless innings in Friday’s 7-2 win at Tampa Bay. The Royals, winners of nine of 10, have held opponents to three runs or fewer in all 13 games this month, going 10-3.
Kansas City’s pitching staff has surrendered 20 earned runs in June and remains a big reason the club is within a game of reaching .500 for the first time since it was 21-21 on May 21.
“You can’t say enough good things about what our pitching staff’s done,” said Kansas City slugger Billy Butler, who is 8 for 17 with five RBIs against the Rays this season. “It’s been really fun lately to have them meshing together with the offense and defense.”
The Royals own a 34-13 run advantage while going 4-0 this season against the Rays (35-32), who have dropped five of six.
Guthrie (7-3, 3.60 ERA), who won eight games for Colorado and Kansas City in 2012, is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three starts since he posted a 7.91 ERA while losing his previous three. The right-hander gave up a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera over 6 1/3 innings of a 3-2 win over Detroit on Monday.
Guthrie is 6-10 with a 4.05 ERA in 19 starts against the Rays, but has not faced them since 2011 with Baltimore.
After recording three hits, including a three-run homer in Kansas City’s 10-1 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday, ex-Ray Elliot Johnson had two more hits with an RBI on Friday.
Traded by the Rays to the Royals in February, the light-hitting infielder is 8 for 15 (.533) with both of his home runs and five of his eight RBIs in four games against his former team this season.
Tampa Bay has totaled four runs and 18 hits during its current three-game skid that followed a four-game stretch where it averaged 7.8 runs and 13.0 hits.
The Rays’ rotation has allowed 33 runs in 31 innings over the last six games.
“We can talk about our offense all we want, but until we start pitching like we can it’s going to be tough to get on a nice roll again,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb (6-2, 2.95) takes the mound looking for a more complete outing. He allowed six first-inning runs before he settled down and gave up seven hits and walked three over a season-low four frames of a 10-8, 14-inning loss to Boston on Monday.
The right-hander gave up four runs and 16 hits in 28 2/3 innings to go 2-0 over his previous four starts.
Cobb, who yielded four runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings of an 8-2 loss at Kansas City on April 30, is 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA against the Royals.
Johnson is 2 for 3 against Cobb.
Despite the Rays’ offensive struggles, Matt Joyce is batting .417 (10 for 24) with three homers and four RBIs in six games. He has hit .414 with four homers and five RBIs in his last seven versus Kansas City.