The streaking Tampa Bay Rays bring their 11-game winning streak into a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals beginning Tuesday night in Tampa.
If the streak grows to 12 games, it will tie the longest in franchise history, equaling the mark from 2004.
The streak has taken the Rays from a .500 team when it began May 13 to the best record in the American League in less than two weeks.
The Rays will send left-hander Rich Hill to the mound for the series opener. The Royals have not announced a starter.
Tampa Bay keeps finding ways to win. The Rays squandered a 5-0 lead in Monday’s game when Toronto scored twice in the bottom of the eighth. After the Rays scored two in the top of the 10th, the Jays answered with two in the bottom of the inning to tie it again.
The Rays then scored seven runs in the top of the 11th and won going away, 14-8.
“Everybody has to play a role when you score that many runs, but it was a big back-and-forth game,” manager Kevin Cash said following the game.
Following the victory, the Rays made the 22-mile drive from Dunedin, the temporary home of the Blue Jays.
“Certainly unique, but it’s nice,” Cash said. “(Hitting coach Chad Mottola) always says, ‘Happy flight.’ A lot of guys were saying, ‘Let’s find a way to have a happy drive.’ And they’ll have a happy drive back to St. Pete today.”
The winning streak started when Hill shut down the New York Yankees May 13. In his last two starts, Hill has allowed one run on five hits in 12 2/3 innings, and just one run on eight hits while striking out 21 in 21 2/3 innings over his past four starts.
The Royals are coming off a dramatic series win Sunday against Detroit. They entered the ninth inning down 2-1 when Whit Merrifield led off with a single. Carlos Santana hit a 1-0 pitch 442 feet into the fountains in right center. It not only won the game and the series, but it clinched a 4-1 homestand after a tough road trip.
“Carlos is just a special player,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said following the game, the final three innings of which he watched from his office because of an ejection in the sixth inning. “Just like we’ve talked about and celebrated ‘Salvy’ (catcher Salvador Perez) so much, Carlos is one of those guys, too. You want to see them in those situations because they rise to those occasions.”
Matheny was particularly pleased that his troops stayed in the game despite early difficulty. Tigers starter Casey Mize held the Royals to one hit through six innings. But a run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly led to the chance for the walk-off win.
“Mize was good today,” Matheny said. “You can tell the guys were having trouble picking up the spin and (he) kept us off-balance all day. But I love that message that we have: Just keep going. I’m hearing the guys say it, it’s not just us coaches yelling like idiots all the time.
“The guys are buying into this: Keep us there, keep us there, something good is going to happen.”
The Royals have now won six of their last nine after ending an 11-game losing streak.
–Field Level Media