The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the throwback-uniform-wearing Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 in an MLB interleague spring training matchup Monday afternoon as a Rays comeback fell short.
The teams from opposite baseball leagues met at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida, the Rays’ spring training facility.
The game featured something of a Grapefruit League anomaly with the Pirates pitcher, as per National League rules, batting in the nine hole, while the American League Rays followed the standard designated hitter rule. In the regular season or playoffs, the home field determines whether or not the DH is used by both teams in interleague play.
For the Pirates, right fielder Jose Osuna homered off of Rays starter Blake Snell with one on in the fourth, and shortstop Jody Mercer homered against Snell with one on in the fifth, giving Pittsburgh a 4-1 lead. “Osuna, 24, who finished last season in Class AAA Indianapolis, is batting.417 with team highs with five homers and 14 RBI,” the Observer-Reporter noted. Second baseman Adam Frazier (.450) went 3-5 for Pittsburgh in the contest.
— Pirates (@Pirates) March 20, 2017
Snell pitched five innings, giving up seven hits and four earned runs, while striking out three.
Pirates starter Jameson Taillon, the team’s upcoming number-two starter, pitched 4-1/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs in the process. He also recorded four strikeouts. Dan Runzler got the win in relief, while Wade LeBlanc was credited with the save.
Snell is expected to be a member of the Rays regular pitching rotation, most likely as the number four.
The Rays scored single runs in the first and the fourth They tallied two runs in the seventh following back-to-back doubles by newcomers Mallex Smith and Patrick Leonard. Rays reliever David Carpenter gave up what proved to be the winning run, however, as Osuna grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Trace Tam Sing in the eighth. Smith struck out to end the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Rays franchise star Evan Longoria, now sporting a full beard, went 0-3 with one strikeout and grounded into a double play. “A couple of hours before the game, Rays [center fielder] Kevin Kiermaier signed a $53.5 million contract. Kiermaier celebrated with a pair of hits, including an RBI single in the fifth,” TribLive reported.
In an additional highlight, Rays catcher Jesus Sucre picked off left fielder Phil Gosselin with a brilliant throw in the second inning.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) March 20, 2017
In the 2016 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished third in the National League Central at 78-83 (with one tie because of a game against the Cubs suspended at 1-1 in the sixth winning for bad weather that was never resumed), out of playoff contention. The attendance-challenged Rays whose payroll as a result is far behind their American League East rivals, finished in last place with a record of 68-94.
While spring training baseball is a lot of fun, and a chance to get good seats close to the action, it is very much a caveat emptor situation for the fans as far which players take the field on a particular day. Frontline players often don’t make “road trips” during the exhibition season, for example. Typically in spring training baseball, moreover, after three or four innings of work, veterans ballplayers on both sides make way for backups, minor leaguers, and non-roster invitees.
Pirates superstar Andrew McCutchen is currently playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He will rejoin Pittsburgh for spring training 2017 as soon as the international tournament finishes up later this week. McCutchen is shifting from center field to right field when the regular season gets underway and was also the subject of lots of trade rumors during the “hot stove” period prior to the opening of training camp.
[Featured Image by Tony Gutierrez/AP Images]