While the late innings doomed the Tampa Bay Rays in the opening game of the series, it's the first inning that has given Jeremy Hellickson the most trouble lately.
Hellickson will try to get off to a strong start and get the Rays back on track on Wednesday night when they continue their road trip against the Kansas City Royals.James Shields was outstanding in his first start against his former team and the Royals (14-10) rallied for eight runs over the final three innings to open this three-game series with an 8-2 victory Tuesday."It fell apart very quickly and that was unusual to see," manager Joe Maddon said. "Shields was really good."The Rays (12-14), who did not score after Matt Joyce's two-run homer in the first, failed to win their third straight and dropped to 4-10 on the road.Now they'll turn to Hellickson (1-2, 4.31 ERA) to get them back to .500 on this 10-game trip.After allowing five runs over 19 innings in his first three outings, Hellickson gave up that many in six innings while losing his last start. He struck out eight and walked four in a 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.Hellickson has been outstanding in two starts against the Royals -- both at home. He's struck out 13 and allowed two runs over 14 1/3 innings while leading the Rays to a pair of wins.The right-hander will have to find a way to get out of the first unscathed since eight of the 15 runs he's given up have been in the opening inning.The Royals, however, haven't scored in the first inning over their last seven games."It's kind of frustrating, but I feel good," Hellickson said. "I just need to throw better pitches."Mike Moustakas went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer that highlighted Kansas City's four-run sixth inning in the opener."One inning, you know, kind of turned the game around for us," Moustakas said.The third baseman, though, might have a tough time extending his four-game hitting streak considering he's hitless in six career at-bats against Hellickson.Although Alex Gordon is 1 for 13 over his last three games, he's done some damage with three hits -- including a double -- in six at-bats in this matchup.The Royals will send right-hander Luis Mendoza to the mound as they seek their second home series win.Mendoza (0-1, 5.14) allowed eight runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 8-4 loss to Toronto on April 12 before working 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief at Detroit on April 24.He lost his only start against the Rays, yielding two runs and five hits with four walks over 4 1/3 innings of a 5-3 road defeat Aug. 22.Mendoza will want to be careful with Joyce, who is 6 for 17 with three homers and six RBIs in his last four games.James Loney is also swinging a hot bat, collecting three hits in three of his past four contests.The Royals have won eight of 11 at home in this series.