Royals, Meche Look for Win Over Tampa Bay

The Kansas City Royals drew plenty of criticism when they signed Gil Meche in the offseason. The critics are now silent.

Kansas City's lone All-Star representative, Meche looks to win his third consecutive decision when the Royals continue their three game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Although Meche (5-6, 3.26 ERA) compiled a 55-44 record and a pedestrian 4.65 ERA in six seasons with Seattle, the Royals felt enough confidence in the right-hander to give him a five-year, $55 million contract last winter. Meche has rewarded that faith with quality starts in 13 of his 18 outings, and will go to the All-Star game for the first time in his career.

"It's going to be great to go there and represent the Royals," Meche said on the team's official Web site. "I'm pretty excited, to be honest. I'm a little antsy to get there and see what it's all about."

After losing five consecutive starts due in part to poor run support, Meche has recovered to go 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA over his last four outings. He allowed two runs over 6 1-3 innings against the Mariners on Tuesday, when the Royals (36-50) went on to defeat his former club 3-2 in 11 innings.

"He gives us a chance to win every single time," Kansas City manager Buddy Bell told the team's Web site. "Gil's numbers record-wise should be better, but I don't think anyone has given his team a better chance to win than Gil. Certainly his ERA is low. I'm happy for him."

Meche has had trouble in his career against the Devil Rays, going 1-4 with a 5.11 ERA in seven starts. He allowed only three runs - two earned - over six innings at Tampa Bay on June 4, but took the loss as the Royals fell 4-2.

The Devil Rays (34-51) snapped their 11-game losing streak - the longest in the majors this year - with a 6-5 victory in Friday night's series opener. Brendan Harris and Delmon Young each drove in two runs as Tampa Bay defeated Kansas City for the 12th time in the last 15 meetings. The first seven hitters in the Rays' lineup all had at least two hits.

"A load's always lifted after you've lost 11 games. To say otherwise would be total denial," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Nobody ever wants to go through that. But I think our guys handled it extremely well.

"The baseball gods conspired against us for about two weeks. Now we get to move on."

The loss was the second straight overall and the fourth in six games for the Royals.

Tampa Bay rookie starter Andy Sonnanstine (1-3, 5.63) has dropped three straight decisions over four outings since earning his first major league victory June 10 at Florida. The right-hander is seeking his third consecutive quality start, though, after yielding five runs in 12 1-3 innings over his last two outings.

Sonnanstine gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of Monday's 10-2 defeat at Cleveland. He has never faced the Royals.

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