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Pirates, Rays clash at the Trop
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays are two of the bigger disappointments in the first half of 2014 and will get together Monday night for the opener of a three-game interleague series at Tropicana Field.
The Pirates reached the playoffs last fall for the first time since 1992, while the Rays have been to the postseason in four of six years since reaching the World Series in 2008. Still, Pittsburgh is languishing in fourth place in the NL Central and Tampa Bay is last in the AL East with the worst record in the majors.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "We put ourselves in a pretty good hole, but I think that the belief on a daily basis is still we can come to the ballpark and win."
Both teams have been buoyed lately by production from young outfielders.
Tampa Bay has gotten a .301 average and four home runs in 27 games from 24- year-old Kevin Kiermaier, while Pittsburgh's latest phenom, Gregory Polanco, had a hit in each of his first 11 games before going 0-for-3 on Sunday in Chicago.
Kiermaier will face veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez, who was chased after allowing eight runs in 2 1/3 innings of an 11-4 loss to a former team -- the Cincinnati Reds -- on Wednesday.
He's faced the Rays twice in his career and is 1-0 with a 3.65 earned run average.
Pittsburgh goes up against Tampa Bay righty Alex Cobb for the first time.
He's never faced the Pirates, but has won five of seven decisions in eight interleague starts while posting a 3.16 ERA. Cobb was 7-0 at Tropicana Field last season, but is winless there in five starts this season with a 3.30 ERA.
The Rays have been shut out in four of those five starts.
On Sunday in Chicago, Travis Snider homered and Brandon Cumpton tossed seven shutout innings as the Pirates held on for a 2-1 victory over the Cubs in the rubber match of a three-game set at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs mustered only two hits off Cumpton (3-2) before mounting threats against the Pittsburgh bullpen in the final two innings. Junior Lake and Darwin Barney opened the eighth with back-to-back singles, but Tony Watson escaped the jam by striking out two batters after a sacrifice bunt.
Chicago had men on the corners after Pirates closer Mark Melancon gave up consecutive singles to begin the ninth. Chicago got on the board when Nate Schierholtz hit into a fielder's choice, with second baseman Josh Harrison flipping to shortstop Jordy Mercer for the second out. Melancon then retired Lake on a flyout to right for his 12th save of the season.
The Pirates scored both of their runs in the third against Jason Hammel (6-5).
In Tampa Bay, Yunel Escobar gave the Rays the lead with a two-run single in the sixth and the hosts went on to post a 5-2 victory over the Houston Astros.
Sean Rodriguez also had two RBI as the Rays took three of four from the Astros. Longoria finished with three of Tampa Bay's nine hits and knocked in a run, while starter Erik Bedard earned a no-decision after allowing two runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings.
He struck out eight and walked one and exited after giving up consecutive one- out singles in the sixth. Juan Carlos Oviedo (3-2) unleashed a wild pitch with two outs, but got Robbie Grossman on a groundout to second.
The Rays and Pirates last met in 2008, when Tampa Bay took two of three games in the Steel City. These clubs haven't played in Tampa since 2003.
06/23 10:37:03 ET