Royals-Rays Preview

Kansas City Royals rookie Yordano Ventura has been terrific since returning from a minor elbow injury early last month.

Alex Cobb is coming off back-to-back wins for the Tampa Bay Rays, but he's still looking to find his form.

Ventura and Cobb square off as these teams close a three-game series Wednesday night in St. Petersburg.

After dropping four straight starts, Ventura has gone 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA over his last six. The hard-throwing right-hander was backed by four runs during his losing streak, but he's since received an average of 6.0.

Ventura (6-7, 3.07 ERA) came within two outs of his first complete game in Friday's 7-1 win at Cleveland. He yielded one run and six hits in improving to 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA in his last six road starts.

"He was unbelievable - fastball, curveball, changeup. Everything was working for him," teammate Mike Moustakas told MLB's official website. "He's got such electric stuff, I mean all his pitches are disgusting.

"When he's able to command and control like he did today, it just shows a lot and how much he's grown up as a pitcher."

Ventura allowed two hits and struck out six over six innings in his only appearance against the Rays, who scored in the ninth to win 1-0 in Kansas City on April 8.

Cobb allowed four runs in his first four appearances but has a 5.98 ERA over an eight-start stretch. Despite his struggles, Cobb (4-6, 4.28) is on the verge of winning a career best-tying third consecutive outing after being backed by a combined 15 runs in his last two.

The right-hander allowed three earned runs and lasted five innings in both, including Friday's 6-3 victory at Detroit.

Cobb went 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in three starts against the Royals over the previous two seasons. Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are both 4 for 12 with a homer in their matchups, and Raul Ibanez has taken Cobb deep twice.

The Rays (42-51) have won 11 of 14 after holding on for a 4-3 victory Tuesday. Brandon Guyer went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and Evan Longoria collected two RBIs.

"We have to win these games like this," said manager Joe Maddon, whose club climbed to nine games behind AL East-leading Baltimore. "We're used to doing this in the past. We're starting to get that feeling back again now."

The Royals (46-43) have split the first eight games on a nine-game trip after going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position Tuesday. Lorenzo Cain matched a career high with four hits and Salvador Perez drove in all three runs.

"I'm just doing what I can to get on base, and if the guys happen not to drive me in, it happens sometimes," Cain said. "I'm just going to continue to do what I can to get on base."

Kansas City, which won 6-0 in Monday's opener, has left 21 on base in the series.

Royals second baseman Omar Infante is batting .433 during a seven-game hitting streak. Cain has hit safely in five straight, going 10 for 22 with three extra-base hits.

Kansas City is 13-5 against Tampa Bay since the start of 2012.

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