As if the Rays' rotation wasn't difficult enough for hitters to navigate, their arms have been backed up by plenty of offense in recent days. Apparently falling victim to Felix Hernandez's perfect game last week was exactly what they needed.
Tampa Bay has scored 42 runs in the five games since. The Rays scored at least seven runs in all four games of their previous series, against the Angels, tying a franchise record they'd previously accomplished twice. They also batted around in each of those games, setting another club record.
Both streaks were snapped in Monday's opener against the Royals, but they still tallied five runs on 11 hits. Combine an explosive offense with an already dominant rotation -- Tampa Bay's starters entered Monday with the American League's best ERA, at 3.52 -- and life is good right now for the Rays.
It also appears pretty challenging for the Royals, as they will go up against David Price, the AL leader in wins (16) and ERA (2.39), on Tuesday.
"It takes pressure off," Price said of the team's improved run support. "You can definitely feel that on the mound. Whenever you have a four- or five-run lead and runners on with two outs, you don't have to try and make that perfect pitch. You go out there and throw a good pitch and make your defense make a good play."
But the Rays will be going up against the Royals' Luke Hochevar, who has limited them to just one run over his last two starts against them (16 innings), including his second career shutout in an 8-0 game on June 25.
Hochevar also shut out the A's through the first five innings in his most recent start before surrendering one run each in innings 6 through 8. Manager Ned Yost was hoping Hochevar would get a victory, but the offense didn't oblige, and Oakland won, 3-0.
"I wanted to give him the opportunity, on a short leash, to see if he could get through the eighth inning and maybe pick up a win," Yost said. "I thought he threw the ball well enough to deserve a win."
The right-hander is 1-3 over his last five starts, posting a 6.59 ERA.
Royals: Escobar takes blame for first hit off Guthrie
Some thought the play that ended Jeremy Guthrie's no-hit bid on Sunday in Kansas City should have been ruled an error -- including the man who made the throw. Alcides Escobar feels that his poor throw, which let Paul Konerko break up the no-hitter, should have been ruled an error.
"If I made a good throw, it's an easy out," Escobar said. "[Guthrie's] throwing a no-hitter for 6 2/3, and that's no base hit; with a good throw, that's an easy out. If it's another runner, that's fine -- OK, a base hit. But in that situation, I thought it was an error."
Shortstop Christian Colon -- Kansas City's first-round Draft pick in 2010 -- will likely be out for the rest of the season after being struck in the face by his own foul ball last week in a game for Triple-A Omaha. He went 7-for-17 with a home run and five RBIs in five games with Omaha after spending most of the year with Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Rays: Scott to rejoin team on Tuesday
Tampa Bay's offensive surge certainly shouldn't be harmed by the return of Luke Scott, who will rejoin the team prior to Tuesday's game. Manager Joe Maddon said that most of Scott's playing time will come as a designated hitter when Evan Longoria isn't available to play.
Scott hit .308 with two home runs and six RBIs in eight rehab games for Class A Charlotte. He has been on the disabled list with a strained external oblique since July 21.
"Everything's feeling good, I'm ready to go," Scott said. "It's good to see the team is playing well, and I'm excited to be back."
The Rays have gone 11-3 since Longoria's return from injury, outscoring opponents, 85-35, over those 14 games. Entering Monday, Tampa Bay averaged only 3.86 runs per game this season without its superstar third baseman in the lineup.
Even with Monday's win, Tampa Bay trails the season series, 3-1. The Rays haven't lost a season series to the Royals since 2007, when they went 3-4.
The six games scheduled between the Rays and Royals this season are the fewest between the two teams since 2006.