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Series Preview: Kansas City Royals Vs. Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals face off in the four-game series in St. Petersburg. Can the Rays take advantage, or will their offense let them down again?

The Kansas City Royals (49-65) and Tampa Bay Rays (59-54) are set to start a four-game series tonight in St. Petersburg. The Rays are hanging a mere one and a half games ahead of the Blue Jays in the AL East, while the Royals are firmly entrenched in last place in the AL Central.

The Royals actually have a decent offense this season, and their .267/.327/.400 team average eclipses the Rays' offense in every offensive category. Their offense has been led by Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and rookie Eric Hosmer, with veterans Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera providing some unexpected production. But without Zack Grienke at the helm, the Royals have been sabotaged by a bad pitching staff; their 4.42 team ERA ranks among the worst in the majors. Their slew on pitching prospects are on the way, but they aren't quite there yet.

The big key for the Rays this series will be pitching; if they can contain the Royals' offense, even the Rays' anemic offense should be able to score some runs against this pitching staff. Felipe Paulino will likely be the biggest challenge, as he's been impressively good with the Royals this year (3.56 ERA, 3.05 FIP).

The Rays have the clear pitching advantage in three games this series. The only question is, will they take advantage? 

Monday, 7:10pm -- Luke Hochevar vs. Jeremy Hellickson
Tuesday, 7:10pm -- Jeff Francis vs. James Shields
Wednesday, 7:10pm -- Felipe Paulino vs. Wade Davis
Thursday, 12:10pm -- Danny Duffy vs. Jeff Niemann

Available On: Sun Sports, WDAE 620

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.