The Pittsburgh Pirates had no answer for Tampa Bay Rays starter Zach Eflin, and a late rally attempt came up short as they were defeated 3-2 on Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
With the loss, the Pirates were swept in the three-game series for the first time this season.
Eflin (4-0) blanked the Pirates across 7.0 innings and limited the Pirates (20-12) to just three hits. The right-hander didn’t walk a batter and struck out 10. The 10 punchouts were the most for Eflin since May 22 of last season.
With two on and two outs in the top of the ninth, Carlos Santana laced a double into the right-center gap to cut the Rays’ lead to one. Rays reliever Jason Adam was able to retire Connor Joe with runners on first and second to end the game.
Santana finished the game 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs and accounted for half of the Pirates’ hits.
All three of the Rays’ runs came on solo homers.
Taylor Walls opened the scoring with a solo shot off of Vince Velasquez with one out in the second inning. The blast ended Vealsquez’s scoreless innings streak at 19.1 frames.
After working a scoreless third inning, Velasquez was removed from the game with right elbow discomfort. He is being evaluated.
Velasquez (4-3) worked three innings, allowed one run, two hits, walked one and struck out a pair. 37 of his 54 pitches went for strikes.
Jose Hernandez entered the game in relief of Velasaquez. Hernandez allowed an opposite-field solo home run to Randy Arozarena in the fourth, giving the Rays a 2-0 lead.
Pirates reliever Colin Holderman threw an immaculate inning in the bottom of the seventh – nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. He became the first pitcher to throw an immaculate inning since Juan Nicaso on July 4, 2016 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the eighth, Yandy Diaz hit a one-out homer the other way off of Robert Stephenson to give the Rays (26-6) an insurance run to extend their lead to 3-0.
The Pirates will look to snap their four-game skid against another A.L. East foe when they host the Toronto Blue Jays beginning on Friday night. Left-hander Rich Hill (3-2, 4.18 ERA) will be on the mound for the Pirates opposite righty Chris Bassitt (3-2, 5.18 ERA) for Toronto. First pitch: 6:35.
- All Streaks Must End: Velasquez entered play with 18 straight scoreless innings, the longest by a Pirates’ player this season. It was quite a stretch for the right-hander whose ERA is currently sitting at 3.06 on the year. The Pirates will be holding their breath awaiting further news on Velasquez’s status after exiting the game early.
- RISP Woes: Between the three games this series, the Pirates combined to go 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position. Pittsburgh was 0 for 10 with RISP in the series opener, followed by 0 for 7 in the middle game. Before Santana’s double, the Pirates were 0 for 19 in the series.
- Duane Undergood: While Velasquez’s scoreless inning streak ended, Duane Underwood Jr. extended his to 9.1 innings, a span of seven relief appearances. Underwood has only been scored upon in only two of his 14 appearances this season.
- Looking Frustrated: Several Pirates’ hitters were visibly frustrated with home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s strike zone throughout the duration of the game. Joe (twice), Andrew McCutchen, Bryan Reynolds and Tucupita Marcano all were called out on strikes on pitches that registered well out of the zone.