After a sluggish start to the season, Tampa Bay has finally gotten back over the .500-mark with a 9-8 overall record. The Rays enter play on Tuesday in second place in the American League East standings, just two games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox. Meanwhile, Kansas City remains one game ahead of the Cleveland Indians for first place in the AL Central with a 9-6 record.
Can the Royals bounce back with a win at home over the Rays in the series finale on Wednesday night?
Rays back over .500-mark after series-opening win vs. KCTampa Bay opened its series on the road in Kansas City with a 4-1 victory on Monday night. Josh Fleming spun a gem, tossing 5 ⅓ scoreless innings with three strikeouts and zero walks to earn his first win of the season while Kevin Kiermaier finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs to send the Rays to their fourth straight win.
Yoshiiiii pic.twitter.com/WFk4wUoTpS— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 18, 2021
The Rays have yet to announce a starter for Wednesday’s series finale at Kauffman Stadium. Tampa Bay comes into play on Tuesday night tied for 10th in the MLB with 72 runs scored through 10 contests. The Rays are batting just .220 as a team, 20th in the MLB, and have mashed 17 home runs, 17th in the Major Leagues. Joey Wendle has carried the Rays’ offense at times this season. He’s off to a strong start, hitting .340 with four home runs and 11 RBIs to lead the team in all three categories.
Junis earning extended look in starting rotationKansas City was unable to keep its momentum going on Monday, falling short 4-1 at home in the series opener against Tampa Bay on Monday. Danny Duffy suffered his first loss of the season despite not allowing an earned run in six innings of work. Duffy struck out eight batters and walked just two but was hurt by a pair of egregious errors by first baseman Carlos Santana.
Right-hander Jakob Junis is scheduled to toe the rubber for the Royals in the final game of their series against the Rays on Wednesday. The 28-year-old didn’t earn a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training but he’s earned an extended look after posting strong outings in back-to-back starts. Junis comes in with a 1-0 record to go along with a 1.50 ERA in four appearances (two starts) so far this season. He’s allowed just two runs in his first two starts while striking out 12 batters in 10 combined frames. The strikeouts are a welcome sign for Royals fans, especially after the right-hander watched his strikeout rate evaporate to just 6.75 K/9 last season. That number has nearly doubled to 11.25 K/9 so far this season despite the fact that Junis’ fastball has actually lost a tick in terms of velocity this season.
The Royals’ right-hander will be happy to see the Rays while he’s on the mound on Thursday night. He is 4-1 in five career games (four starts) versus the Rays with a 2.28 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 23 ⅔ combined innings of work. He last saw Tampa Bay in 2019, going 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
It’s hard not to like Junis’ chances in this game. He’s put together a strong start to the 2021 season and is whiffing hitters at a career-high rate. The Royals right-hander has also enjoyed a ton of career success against the Royals, going 4-1 with a lifetime 2.28 ERA against them coming into this matchup. Kansas City’s offense is also due for some positive regression after scoring just seven combined runs over its last four games. Look for the Royals to come out on top at home in this AL clash at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night.
Full-Game Total Pick
This has the makings of a low-scoring affair. Kansas City’s offense has gone cold as of late, averaging just 1.75 runs per game over its last four contests. The Royals have scored five runs or more just two times in their last 13 games, so it’s hard to expect them to carry the load in this one. Meanwhile, Junis has performed well this season and has strong numbers against the Rays coming into this game. The Royals bullpen also ranks 12th in the big leagues in bullpen ERA, so the under looks like a strong play here. Take this matchup to stay under the projected total on Wednesday night.