Royals-Rays Preview

There are plenty of teams to hurdle in the AL wild-card race, but first the Tampa Bay Rays need to find a way to avoid their worst-ever finish against an opponent.

The surging Kansas City Royals seek a seven-game season sweep over the Rays on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

The Rays, who have never finished 0-7 or worse against any team in a single season, are falling quickly in their quest for a wild card. Five losses in six games has dropped them 4 1/2 behind Texas.

Kansas City (80-49) increased its Central lead to 14 games with Saturday's 6-3 victory, its seventh win in eight tries and 17th in 22. They've also won seven straight and 15 of 18 against Tampa Bay (63-66) since the start of the 2013 season.

The Royals have hit .323 and averaged 7.0 runs during the six-game series streak.

''Sometimes you've go to give credit to the other team,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. ''This is (a team with) a very relentless approach, and we've seen it now for six games."

Kendrys Morales hit two-run homer in Friday's 3-2 win over the Rays and his two-out RBI single Saturday was his 90th of the season, the most by a Royal since Billy Butler had 107 in 2012.

Morales, who is hitting .375 with eight RBIs against the Rays this year, leads the majors with 47 RBIs with two outs this season, breaking the club record of 46 set by Joe Randa in 2000.

Mike Moustakas also is wielding a hot bat, hitting .519 with three homes and 14 RBIs in his last seven games. He hit his fifth and sixth doubles during that span to drive in three runs Saturday.

''You wouldn't know that we're 31 games over .500,'' Moustakas said. ''We come in expecting to win every night. We come in to grind it out, play the game hard. That's what we're doing and it translates on the field.''

Danny Duffy (7-6, 4.13 ERA) will try to complete Kansas City's fourth road sweep of the season. The left-hander saw mixed results against two other AL East teams over his last two starts, surrendering six runs in 10 2-3 innings in a loss at Boston on Aug. 20 and a home win over Baltimore on Tuesday.

He allowed two runs and five hits over 5 2-3 innings in the 3-2 victory over the Orioles.

Tampa Bay hopes Nathan Karns (7-5, 3.69) can rebound from a dismal performance and provide some innings after each of its last three starters failed to complete five innings.

Karns (7-5, 3.69) has been guilty of abbreviated starts as well, finishing the sixth inning in only one of his last five outings. He's posted a 5.25 ERA in those games, giving up six home runs and 14 walks in 24 innings.

His August record, though, is 1-0 thanks to a healthy 6.38 run support average.

The right-hander matched the shortest outing of his career during an 11-7 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday. Karns was tagged for five runs and four hits in three innings, while four free passes pushed his walks per nine innings rate to 3.50, third-highest in the majors.

"One of those games you wish you didn't have starting off a series," Karns told MLB's official website.

Kansas City right fielder Alex Rios, who had an eight-game hitting streak snapped in the opener, was a late scratch Saturday due to illness.

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