Scouting the Rays

You can’t blame the Rays if they feel like kids again.

Not only is the team playing great baseball (Tampa Bay just finished 8-2 on a 10-game road trip), but it’s ready for American Legion ball. (Yeah, Legion, not League.)

Although the Rays just finished the 10-game road trip on the West Coast on Sunday, they’ll play six straight games starting tonight against the Royals. All told, the team will play on 19 straight days.

Manager Joe Maddon told the Tampa Bay Times he’s making sure players get rest (Ben Zobrist and Jeff Keppinger didn’t play Sunday) and will reduce the pregame workload in what he has called “American Legion” week, where they just show up and play.

“The first two, three days back are a huge concern for me, based on a 10-day trip and then going home without a day (off),” Maddon told the Times. “And it's exaggerated, or exacerbated, by going West Coast to East Coast, which really or almost never happens.“Third baseman/designated hitter Evan Longoria, who returned Aug. 7 after three months on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, likely won’t play tonight.

“If it's the smartest thing to do overall and I'm a little sore, then it's a possibility,” Longoria told the Times. “But there's a possibility my stubbornness might take over, too.”

The Rays, who had a perfect game thrown against them Wednesday by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, bounced back just fine.

They swept a four-game series in LA and did it against the Angels’ four All-Star starters: Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke.

All told, that quartet allowed 27 earned runs on 28 hits in 17.1 innings pitched. That’s an astonishing 14.02 ERA. While the Angels are obviously struggling, that’s still an impressive feat for the Rays, whose 37 runs scored in those games were a team record for a four-game series.

The Associated Press noted that the Rays were struggling when they scored six runs and batted .229 with 25 strikeouts while getting swept in three games June 25-27 at Kauffman Stadium.

The AP also pointed out that the Rays are a major league-best 14-4 since July 31, while the Royals are 13-6.

Although Royals designated hitter Billy Butler has been on a roll, he hasn’t performed well in his home state. Butler, who went to high school in Jacksonville, Fla., has struggled at Tropicana Field more than any other AL park.

He’s hit .171 with a .203 on-base percentage and a .214 slugging percentage in 74 plate appearances over 19 games. That includes zero home runs and just three RBIs.

| Pete Grathoff, pgrathoff@kcstar.com