The Royals enjoyed a strong April, closing the month with a 14-10 record, a half-game back in the American League Central. So far, nothing has changed in May.
The Royals opened the new month by eeking out a 9-8 win over the Rays on Wednesday, setting them up to potentially finish a three-game sweep on Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. Ervin Santana, one of the reasons for the strong start, will take the ball against the Rays' Roberto Hernandez.
Santana (3-1, 2.00 ERA) will be going for his 100th career win as he looks to make Kansas City 5-2 on its homestand. The right-hander racked up the first 96 of those victories with the Angels, but seems re-energized with the Royals following a rough 2012 season.
Kansas City has won each of Santana's past four starts, during which he posted a 1.20 ERA. In 14 innings over his past two outings, he hasn't walked a batter or allowed a home run.
"I saw a lot of great stuff," Royals manager Ned Yost said after Santana struck out five over seven scoreless innings on Saturday. "But, for me, the key was his slider -- he had a lot of bite to it. Throwing good two-seamers, keeping the ball down in the zone. He just pitched a fantastic game."
Things have not been going so smoothly for Hernandez (1-4, 5.28), who has surrendered three or more earned runs in all but one of his five starts. The righty lost his command within the strike zone on Friday against the White Sox, serving up a career-high three home runs -- and allowing five runs total -- over six innings.
"When he's gotten hit a couple of times, he's speeding up a little bit, and the ball gets up in the zone," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Because he has a tendency to want to over-boogie sometimes. To me, he's a classic example of a guy who could try easier, or try less, when it gets hotter. Don't try to throw harder, try actually to throw softer when things get hotter. And I think to this point, he's done the opposite of that, where he tries to do more. My point is, if he tried to do less, the ball would move more down and work to his benefit.
"I know he's been playing awhile, but I still think that's a part of the game to be learned by him. To know when to get softer. ... And I think that would benefit him."
Rays: Joyce powering up
Outfielder Matt Joyce has homered in four of his past five games after going deep twice in his first 18 contests of the season. Overall, he is 7-for-22 with seven RBIs during that stretch.
Historically, May has been Joyce's most productive month, with a .320/.410/.610 batting line and 17 home runs in 73 games.
Joyce isn't alone. As a team, the Rays have hit a homer in 16 straight games, the longest streak in the Major Leagues this season
Royals: Johnson playing well against former club
Infielder Elliot Johnson started both of the first two games at second base against the Rays, the organization with which he had spent his entire career until this season. Johnson went 2-for-3 on Tuesday -- his first multi-hit game of the season -- then smacked his first homer of the year on Wednesday.
Kansas City's regular second baseman, Chris Getz, has been dealing with allergies, as have some other players. Yost said Getz would probably be back in the lineup on Thursday.
• The Royals have won five straight games against the Rays at Kauffman Stadium and nine of their past 12.
• Santana was voted the Royals Pitcher of the Month for April by the Kansas City media, while left fielder Alex Gordon was voted Player of the Month.
• Hernandez has a 6.35 ERA in eight career games at Kauffman Stadium, the last coming in 2010.
• Gordon is 15-for-31 (.484) with four doubles and a home run off Hernandez.
• Santana has a 5.47 ERA in 13 career outings against the Rays.