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Rays’ improving offense takes another crack at Pirates

The tide appears to be turning favorably for some of the Tampa Bay Rays’ stars, and they will look to keep it going in the middle contest of a three-game set against the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

Yandy Diaz has a 14-game hitting streak, matching his career high. He has been held hitless only once this month (June 5) but drew a walk in that game and has now reached base in a career-best 23 straight games.

Randy Arozarena is recovering from a sluggish first two months of the season, batting .309 in June after entering the month with a .158 average.

It’s been a similar trajectory for Jose Siri, who has 17 hits this month with nine days to go — after he had just 25 hits on the year through the end of May.

“I think it was just a matter of time,” Diaz said through an interpreter. “We have great hitters, and I think that everyone’s just getting activated and getting ready to go at the same time.”

Josh Lowe appears to be joining the club. The right fielder mashed two home runs while going 3-for-5 with four RBIs in the Rays’ 10-3 win on Friday. He is 6-for-15 over his past four games, picking up half of his 12 RBIs in that stretch.

It’s a welcome turnaround for the 26-year-old after injuries delayed his season debut until May 6 and then hampered him again at the end of last month.

“We know what he’s capable of doing,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We saw, for a really young player, he had a pretty big season for us last year. … He’s certainly capable, if he’s getting his timing, of being a really, really good player for us.”

The Pirates, meanwhile, will hope for a better result on the mound as they try to level the series.

Because of injuries to the rotation, manager Derek Shelton turned to the duo of Carmen Mlodzinski and Luis L. Ortiz in a collective effort early in the Friday game, but the pair allowed seven runs in 5 2/3 innings.

“I think we have to just kind of internalize it, in terms of the way we feel and what we feel the matchups are and how they go,” Shelton said of the strategy for bullpen games.

Rookie Jared Jones (4-6, 3.76 ERA) will get the nod on Saturday for his first career appearance against Tampa Bay. Home field has been an advantage for the 22-year-old right-hander, who has a 2.14 ERA over seven games in Pittsburgh and a 5.59 ERA in seven road starts.

Pittsburgh had won four of six before the Friday loss, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in five of those contests. The exception was when the Pirates were on the wrong end of a 16-4 result against the Colorado Rockies on June 15.

After knocking out 42 hits while winning three of four from June 14-17, the Pirates saw their offense taper off over the past three games, as they managed 12 hits.

They had five hits on Friday and rarely threatened outside of the fourth inning, when they halved their deficit to 4-2. Bryan Reynolds added a solo homer in the eighth inning, extending the longest active hitting streak in the major leagues to 18 games.

Zach Eflin (3-4, 4.12 ERA) will take the mound for the Rays on Saturday. The righty is 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh.

–Field Level Media

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