Both clubs won their final game going into the break Sunday to snap long losing streaks.
The Rays' offense struggled in losing seven straight before beating the Braves 10-4 on Sunday
"It is nice to cap it off," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. "We have reason to be frustrated the last week or so. I felt we were doing some things OK, just not to the standard maybe we had set, but to win a ballgame going into the break like that feels so much better."
Averaging 5.44 runs per game, the Rays ranked fourth in baseball, yet managed just 17 runs during the seven losses -- an unexpected downturn as Tampa Bay topped the American League with a 58-35 first-half mark to set a franchise record
"Congrats to that group out there," Cash said. "The first time you're doing something -- this franchise has won a lot of baseball games over many years -- that's saying something."
Despite recent struggles, Rays hitters rank third in the majors with 137 first-half homers and second with 111 stolen bases. Isaac Paredes, Randy Arozarena and Jose Siri lead the team with 16 homers apiece. Yandy Diaz's .323 batting average ranks third in baseball
Tampa Bay pitchers allowed 3.84 runs per game in the first half, best in the majors.
The Rays will send right-hander Tyler Glasnow (2-3, 4.10 ERA) to the mound opposite rookie right-hander Alec Marsh (0-2, 7.00)
Glasnow dropped a 2-1 decision to Atlanta in his last start on July 7, fanning eight in 5 2/3 innings. In his three previous starts against the Royals, Glasnow owns a 2.00 ERA over 18 innings
Glasnow struck out 12 of 19 batters faced in five innings during the most recent outing against Kansas City, a 3-1 win June 25, as the teams split a four-game set at Tampa Bay on June 22-25. All-Star catcher Salvador Perez is hitless in seven at-bats with four strikeouts against Glasnow.
Making his third career start, Marsh has never faced the Rays. In his last start, he allowed three runs -- two earned -- in five innings of a 5-0 loss at Minnesota on July 5, but Royals manager Matt Quatraro saw a lot he liked
"The curveball looked extremely sharp," Quatraro said. "(Marsh) was able to get some swings-and-misses in the zone as well as chase. There were a lot of encouraging things there."
Kansas City set its own first-half records while building a 26-65 mark (.286 winning percentage), only fractionally better than the franchise-worst 27-68 (.284) record in 2018.
Before Sunday's 4-1 win at Cleveland, the Royals dropped six straight while scoring just 14 runs, suffering two shutouts
"It's much nicer to go into the break with a win than losing for a whole week," Quatraro said. "There were games throughout this week we could have won, but that's the big leagues."
Perez leads Kansas City with 15 homers and Bobby Witt Jr. is tops with 47 RBIs. Witt has been the team's offensive driver the past two weeks, hitting .385 with six extra-base hits and nine RBIs in the last 10 games.
"Bobby's swinging the bat great," Quatraro said. "We've seen his approach really improve over the last six weeks to two months."
--Field Level Media