The Tampa Bay Rays have had little trouble scoring runs on their current road trip.
The surging Rays look for another big offensive effort while trying for a fifth consecutive victory when they continue their set with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay (47-31) won 10-5 over Pittsburgh in Friday’s opener after completing a three-game sweep at Florida. The Rays, one-half game back of AL East-leading Boston, have won 10 of 13 and outscored their opponents 37-13 in their last four contests.
“If you get a couple of hitters heating up as a group in the middle of the lineup, it helps a lot and it looks like it’s turning in that direction,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Longoria had four hits Friday and has at least three and a homer in each of his last three contests. He is 12-for-24 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in his last five games.
“Sometimes you find your stride, and I’m comfortable at the plate and confident, and I’m trying to ride it out,” Longoria said. “You never know when it will come and go.”
The Rays’ lineup also received a boost Friday when first baseman Carlos Pena was activated after spending 3 1/2 weeks on the disabled list with a broken left index finger. Pena went 0-for-3 with an RBI while batting sixth and is expected to hit lower in the order to ease his way back.
“We’re playing great baseball and we want to keep rolling, so we’re not making too many changes,” said Pena, hitting .224 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs. “He’s got my best interests at heart and, more importantly, the team’s at heart.”
Tampa Bay will be without second baseman Akinori Iwamura for the next three games as he serves a suspension for his role in a brawl with Boston on June 5.
Edwin Jackson (4-6, 4.35 ERA) is expected to start Saturday for the first time since serving his five-game suspension for his involvement in that incident.
The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-3 win over Houston last Saturday. Jackson gave up an earned run in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-4 victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 26, 2005 while with the Los Angeles Dodgers in his only start against the Pirates.
Pittsburgh (37-42) will try to avoid a third straight loss after giving up 10 runs for the second straight game. The Pirates have lost three of four while allowing 33 runs during that span.
Rookie Jimmy Barthmaier lasted 2 1-3 innings in his major league debut Friday for the Pirates, who will bring up another pitcher from the minors to start Saturday.
Ty Taubenheim (NR) is expected to be called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to make his Pittsburgh debut. He was acquired by the Pirates in March after being released by Toronto in December.
The right-hander is 0-5 with a 5.55 ERA in eight career starts. He allowed a hit in one inning of relief against Tampa Bay while with the Blue Jays in May 2006.