PITTSBURGH (AP)—Home runs to left field, home runs to right, line drives all over PNC Park. The Tampa Bay Rays are fast developing not only into one of the majors’ best young teams, but one of the best teams, period.
Or exactly the kind of team the Pittsburgh Pirates have spent 16 years trying to become.
Evan Longoria and Eric Hinske hit three-run homers off the Pirates’ Jimmy Barthmaier in his major league debut, and the streaking Rays quickly opened a seven-run lead in beating Pittsburgh 10-5 Friday night.
In a matchup of two of baseball’s worst teams over the last decade, the much-improved Rays showed the Pirates their blueprint for rebuilding, with plenty of fast-progressing players who can hit for power.
The Rays are a franchise-best 17 games over .500 at 48-31 after winning four in a row, five of six and 10 of 13; the Pirates are 37-42 during a 16th consecutive losing season.
Barthmaier (0-1), a former Astros prospect who began the season in Double-A, was called up because the Pirates are down two injured pitchers and are thin on minor league starting pitching prospects. His inexperience showed. The right-hander gave up seven runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings and was in trouble from the start.
“We didn’t want to give him a chance to settle in,” said Longoria, who was 4-for-5 and is 12-for-24 over his last five games. “It’s always tough on a first-time guy—he may be a little more amped up than normal. He was making too many mistakes over the plate. It’s the big leagues, and guys are going to hit that. We did what we wanted to.”
And in a hurry.
Carl Crawford singled and Hinske walked in the first ahead of Longoria’s 15th homer, a drive to left-center that made it 3-0 only five batters into the game.
“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.”
In the third, Hinske hit a 3-1 pitch deep into the right-field seats with two on and none out for his 13th. Dioner Navarro added an RBI double later in the inning, making it 7-0.
“I’ll definitely work on what I need to do,” said Barthmaier, who was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis after the game. “It was definitely tough. But I’m looking forward to being back.”
Hinske and Crawford also scored three runs as the Rays’ Nos. 1-5 hitters combined for 13 of their 15 hits. Crawford hit a solo homer, his eighth, off Sean Burnett in the sixth for his third hit.
The Rays have scored 37 runs while winning their last four.
“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.
The Pirates, giving up 10 runs for the second time in as many games, couldn’t overcome Barthmaier’s shaky debut despite scoring four runs in the fourth against Scott Kazmir (7-3). Kazmir won for the first time in four starts despite lasting only five innings. He hasn’t pitched longer than 5 2-3 innings in his last three starts.
Tampa Bay came back with three more runs on Crawford’s homer, plus Carlos Pena’s sacrifice fly and Jason Bartlett’s run-scoring single in a two-run seventh against John Grabow. Pena played for the first time since breaking his left index finger June 3 in Boston, batting sixth—two spots lower than usual.
Reliever Denny Bautista, acquired in a trade Wednesday with Detroit, also made his Pirates debut but came out after being hit in the right forearm by Akinori Iwamura’s line-drive single in the fourth. X-rays showed no break, but Bautista may not be able to pitch for a couple of games.
Rays reliever Grant Balfour pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings. …. Sanchez’s homer was the eighth against Kazmir in five starts. … Bartlett missed the previous two games for the birth of a son. … Longoria homered for the second day in a row and leads all rookies in homers. … Tampa Bay is 11-5 in interleague play. The Pirates are 4-8 this season and a major league-worst 61-102 since interleague play began in 1997. … Barthmaier’s demotion created a roster spot for right-hander Ty Taubenheim, who was recalled from Indianapolis to start Saturday night. He pitched in 13 games for Toronto in 2006-07.