Royals Prepare To Face Devil Rays

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals own the two worst records in the AL, but only one of these teams has been plummeting in the standings lately.

The Devil Rays look to avoid a 12th straight loss when they open a three-game set against the Royals on Friday.

Tampa Bay (33-51) was routed 15-4 by Boston on Thursday, suffering its third straight series sweep.

The Devil Rays are being outscored 70-30 during their skid, and have not lost 12 in a row since Aug. 27-Sept. 10, 2004. The franchise record losing streak is 15, set April 25-May 10, 2002.

All-Star Carl Crawford is batting .167 (7-for-42) during the skid, while Greg Norton is hitting only .161 (5-for-31).

"We're in one of those moments that is not good and there is no way to get around that," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon told the team's official Web site. "But while we are having this difficult moment, I'm looking to see where we are improving, because this is going to go away. And we're going to be fine and we're going to turn this around."

Kansas City (36-49), meanwhile, has won seven of its last 10 games.

The Royals managed just five hits in Wednesday's 4-0 loss to Seattle, one night after defeating the Mariners 17-3.

Esteban German went 2-for-4 with a double on Wednesday, and is hitting .480 (12-for-25) during Kansas City's six-game homestand.

The Royals have won eight of their last 13 at home, while Tampa Bay has dropped a season-high nine straight on the road.

These teams split a four-game series at Tropicana Field June 1-4.

Tampa Bay's James Shields (6-4, 3.76 ERA) hopes a game against one of his favorite opponents will help him avoid losing his fifth straight start and get his team back on track.

Shields opened the season 6-0 with a 3.04 ERA in his first 13 starts, but is 0-4 with a 6.66 ERA in his last four. On Sunday, the right-hander gave up three runs, six hits and struck out 10 in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 loss to Cleveland.

Shields has been sharp in two career starts against the Royals, allowing two runs in 13 1-3 innings to earn a pair of victories.

Kansas City counters with Odalis Perez (4-7, 5.56), who didn't earn a victory Saturday despite throwing his best game of the season. Perez, who has just two wins in his last 12 starts, allowed one run and three hits in a season high-tying seven innings, but the Royals lost 3-1 to the Chicago White Sox in 10.

Perez's performance on Saturday was one of his few bright spots at home this season. The left-hander is 1-4 with a 6.34 ERA in eight starts at Kauffman Stadium, earning his only win on April 20.

In his only start against Tampa Bay this season, he gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings of a 9-4 victory on June 2. Despite posting a 7.63 ERA in three career starts against the Devil Rays, Perez owns a 2-1 record against them.

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