Rays encounter Pirates at the right time
Big offensive night backs Kazmir's shaky start
PITTSBURGH -- The Rays couldn't have caught the Pirates at a better time than on Friday night.
Pittsburgh was coming off an emotional and historic series against the Yankees, and because of the depleted Pirates rotation, the team had to call up an extra arm from Triple-A after two of its main starters -- Ian Snell and Phil Dumatrait -- went on the disabled list earlier in the week.
Jimmy Barthmaier was making his Major League debut for the Pirates, but the Rays quickly knocked the 24-year-old right-hander out of the game after 2 1/3 innings of work.
It was the beginning of the end of the Rays' 10-5 win over the Pirates in front 19,970 at PNC Park. It was their fourth win in a row and 10th Interleague win of the year.
"They've got some injuries and they've got some guys down," said Evan Longoria, who began the scoring with a three-run home run over the 410-foot sign in left-center field. "As a club right now, it's perfect for us. We got to come in here and do what we need to do whether they come full strength or down a few guys."
Eric Hinske added to Barthmaier's nightmare with another three-run shot to right field, and Dioner Navarro had an RBI double. The two hits gave the Rays an early seven-run lead and knocked Barthmaier out after 64 pitches.
"We obviously didn't want to give him a chance to settle in," Longoria said of Barthmaier. "It's always tough for a first-time guy. I thought his stuff was good, but he was just making too many mistakes over the plate. It's the big leagues. Guys are going to hit that up here."
Rays ace Scott Kazmir, despite not having his best stuff, cruised through his first three innings but ran into a bump in the fourth.
Kazmir surrendered a leadoff homer to second baseman Freddy Sanchez in the fourth, followed by RBI singles to Chris Gomez and Jack Wilson.
"I was just having trouble with my offspeed [pitches]," Kazmir said. "I felt good in the early innings but I just couldn't sit down anybody. I felt my slider was real lazy."
But on this night, the Rays offense would pick up the staff ace. After all, he's done the same thing for them time and again.
With the momentum in the Pirates' favor, Carl Crawford silenced the PNC Park crowd with a home run to straightaway center field in the sixth. Then in seventh, the Rays got two insurance runs on Carlos Pena's sacrifice fly and Jason Bartlett's RBI single.
Friday's game marked the return of Pena and Bartlett. Pena was out since June 3 with a broken left index finger and Bartlett missed the last two games because of the birth of his first child.
The Rays offense, which scored 27 runs in a three-game sweep over the Marlins earlier in the week, banged out 15 hits against the Pirates. The fierce onslaught is another sign that the Rays lineup is heating up all at the same time.
The only position player not to get a hit was Pena, but manager Joe Maddon wasn't worried about his first baseman.
"I just wanted to get Carlos back in to the swing of things, literally," Maddon said. "He's been out for a long time. For right now, it's fine."
And the rest of the offense?
"We've been working good at-bats these last couple days in particular," the Rays' third-year skipper said. "[We're] starting to spread it around a little bit. Certain guys are starting to heat up. We've been talking about that a lot.
"We've just been waiting for different guys to really catch on fire. If we can get a couple guys heat up as a group ... obviously that will help a lot. It's starting to look like it's heading in that direction."
Tampa Bay's bullpen managed to shut down the Pirates after Kazmir's exit, yielding only one run in four innings of relief.
As for Longoria, the 22-year-old third baseman is on a hot streak. He has 10 hits, three home runs and seven RBIs in his last three games.
"Sometimes you just find that stride," he said. "I've been getting really comfortable at the plate, really confident. [I'm] just trying to really ride it out. You never know when it can come and go in this game."
Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.