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Game 90 - Royals vs. Devil Rays Finale

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It's the rubber match at the brilliant and beautiful Tropicana Field, where no grass grows despite young pitchers popping up everywhere.

Cain is the lone offensive star of the team
Cain is the lone offensive star of the team
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are in a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. Despite their city name, the Rays have never played an inning of baseball in Tampa or a bay, instead calling St. Petersburg their home in a stadium that has been referred to by three different names in its quarter century of existence. Originally the Devil Rays, the Devil was dropped in 2008 along with a color switch from a unique teal-green to navy blue. The new Rays' main logo contains a sun ray, which is great, except they still use the devil ray as an alternate logo and keep some in a tank in the stadium.

This current (Devil) Rays team is 42-51, on pace for 73 wins, yet is on a 11-3 tear despite key injuries to 2013 AL Rookie of the Year* Wil Myers, starter Matt Moore, and productive DH David Dejesus. They looked listless in Monday's game against their former ace but clutch in yesterday's game. Management has some tough decisions to make, as this is still a talented team and has an outside chance of slipping in to the playoffs in this weak American League.

*The Rays have not had a losing season since 2007. They have had 3 out of the past 6 Rookie of the Year winners. These things are connected.

The Royals stand three games above .500 (which seems to happen all the time) and have been disappointing recently. Their power is down, their average is down, and even Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez have been slumping recently. This is not a good offensive team, and the acquisition of Raul Ibanez has catalyzed the offense made it even worse.

Unfortunately, some injuries are beginning to catch up to the Royals, who have been generally healthy all year. Alex Gordon is out tonight with a wrist injury and may be out for a few weeks because of it; Mike Moustakas has the flu, and Jason Vargas will have an appendectomy and will be replaced by Bruce Chen for Friday's start. Considering the Tigers are coming to town for an important 4-game set tomorrow, this is bad news. The Royals send this lineup to the field:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Gordon scratched w/sore wrist. New lineup: Dyson 8 Cain 9 Hosmer 3 Perez 2 Infante 4 Butler DH Ibanez 7 Valencia 5 Escobar 6</p>&mdash; Joel Goldberg (@goldbergkc) <a href="https://twitter.com/goldbergkc/statuses/486974147512520706">July 9, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Yordano Ventura has been amazing, but not in the way you might think with a starter who possesses a 100 MPH fastball. His K/9 is only 7.45, but he is limiting walks (BB/9 of 2.51) and has induced a lot of poor contact and guess swings--essentially, Ventura has been the James Shields that James Shields is currently not.

The Rays send this lineup:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rays?src=hash">#Rays</a> in series finale vs <a href="https://twitter.com/Royals">@Royals</a>:Jennings CFZobrist SSJoyce DHLongo 3BLoney 1BGuyer LFRodriguez 2BMolina CKiermaier RFCobb SP</p>— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) <a href="https://twitter.com/RaysBaseball/statuses/486957537439121408">July 9, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Alex Cobb, or the guy who was almost murdered by Eric Hosmer's line drive last year, has been very similar to career numbers in everything except ERA, mostly due to a jump in HR/9, which is at a career high of 0.91. The Royals have yet to hit a home run in this series, so that's probably a good thing for Cobb.

Even if the Royals win here, they will not be able to catch the Tigers before the All-Star break. However, they can muscle themselves to .5 games behind, which will certainly be something.