The ‘under’ is 19-4-3 the last 26 meetings between the Royals and Rays after Tampa Bay’s 2-1 win Monday. With Shield being the Rays’ ace and Francis pitching better than his record, go ‘under’ again.

Expect a nice pitchers’ duel on Tuesday night when Jeff Francis and the Kansas City Royals (49-66 overall, 18-34 away) again pay a visit to James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays (60-54 overall, 28-28 home) in the second game of a prolonged four-game series between the clubs from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL at 7:10 ET.

James ShieldsThe Royals gave it their all in the series opener on Monday, but they fell just short 2-1 much to our chagrin, as we were on Kansas City at some nice odds. Instead, the Royals wasted another fine pitching performance from Luke Hochevar, as what had been a potent offense as of late failed to get a key hit all night.

Kansas City remains mired in last place in the American League Central, 12½ games behind the first place Detroit Tigers, although the Royals remain only two games behind the fourth place Minnesota Twins as they try and get out of the basement.

The Rays remain a distant third in the American League East even with that win last night, as they still trail the first place Red Sox by 11 games after Boston’s come-from-behind win at Minnesota on Monday.   

While we are sticking with the same MLB matchup as last night, we are shifting gears and looking at the total this time around. The Rays’ offense continues to struggle, and we do not see that changing vs. Francis tonight. At the same time though, Shields is now the Tampa Bay ace and he can be counted on to do his part to keep this contest ‘under’ the total.

The posted total for this contest is 7½, with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at a flat -110.

Shield may be only 10-9 this season, but he does have a sparkling 2.95 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 23 starts covering 167.2 innings. Like most of the Tampa Bay staff, he has suffered from a lack of run support. The Rays have been especially bad offensively here at home, where they are batting just .228 as a team overall while averaging a poor 3.41 runs per game, including batting .221 vs. left-handed pitchers.

Shields has just continued to plug away however, allowing one earned run or less in six of his last 10 starts while recording seven Quality Starts in that time, and he now has a stellar 2.36 ERA here at The Trop for the entire season.

The key to this ‘under’ however is Francis, who is just 4-11 with a 4.48 ERA for the season. That said, he has been much better than that lately despite getting credit for just one win in his last nine outings.

Francis has been pitching in tough luck, as he allowed three earned runs or less in six of those nine starts including one outing vs. these Rays where the Royals ultimately won 5-4 but Francis did not factor in the decision. Even his respectable 1.35 WHIP over the entire season is better than you would expect for a pitcher with a 4-11 record, and he is catching a Rays’ lineup here that is batting only .239 over the last 10 games.

Finally, the ‘under’ is now an extremely lucrative 19-4-3 in the last 26 head-to-head meetings between these teams after last night’s 2-1 result, and tonight’s pitching matchup seems conducive to yet another ‘under’.

MLB Pick: Royals, Rays ‘under’ 7½ (-110)