Pirates edge Rays 4-3 as Jared Jones shakes off early troubles

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jared Jones delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, June 22, 2024, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

PITTSBURGH — Jared Jones struck out eight, Oneil Cruz homered into the Allegheny River and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Saturday.

Jones (5-6) overcame some early control issues to allow two runs over seven solid innings to bounce back from a pair of recent shaky starts.

The 22-year-old right-hander hit Brandon Lowe and Amed Rosario in the first inning, catching Rosario’s helmet with a 99 mph fastball that forced the third baseman to exit with facial lacerations. Jones then settled down and seemed to get better as the game went along, retiring the final six batters he faced.

Asked what his goal was after seeing Rosario go down, Jones replied “not wanting to hit a guy in the face again.”

“That was a really scary moment,” Jones said. “Just knowing I got to lock it back in and letting my stuff play through the zone early. I felt like we did a pretty good job of that.”

Aroldis Chapman gave up an RBI double to Yandy Díaz with two outs in the ninth but got Isaac Paredes to ground out and earn his second save.

Cruz became the fifth player to send a ball to the Allegheny River on the fly when he turned on a Zach Eflin (3-5) pitch in the first and deposited it into the water 445 feet from home plate.

“For sure I hit balls farther in (batting practice),” the 6-foot-7 shortstop said. “But that doesn’t count. The ones that count are the ones you hit in the game. Today, I definitely hit it pretty good.”

Andrew McCutchen hit his first triple in more than three years for Pittsburgh. Bryan Reynolds singled to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 19 games. Rowdy Tellez and Nick Gonzales also delivered RBIs for Pittsburgh on a scorching day at PNC Park that began with a temperature of 95 degrees.

Richie Palacios entered after Rosario’s exit and produced two of Tampa Bay’s five hits as the Rays were held in check by Jones and a pair of relievers less than 24 hours after getting a season-high 17 hits in a victory. Diaz’s two-out RBI double in the ninth extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games and his on-base streak to 24.

Eflin lost for the first time since May 1 when he couldn’t quite match Jones despite retiring the last 14 batters he faced.

“He really stepped up,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of Eflin. “You want to win the game, didn’t want to give up the runs, but what we needed coming into the game, he gave us that and more.”

Pittsburgh produced all the breathing room it would need in the third. The 37-year-old McCutchen — who believes he can still flash the speed of his prime when necessary — tripled off the right-field wall with one out, his first three-base hit since April 2021 while playing for Philadelphia and the 50th of his career.

The 2013 NL MVP is one of 12 players to have at least 2,000, 400 doubles, 50 triples, 300 home runs and 200 stolen bases, a list that includes Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson.

“It was fun to see him run,” Shelton said of McCutchen. “He’s still got an extra gear in there. He does.”

Reynolds, hitting .342 in June, followed with an RBI single. Tellez produced an RBI single of his own two batters later and Gonzales hit into a run-scoring forceout that gave Jones room to relax.

Jones cruised through the later innings and exited to a loud ovation in his first start since getting roughed up for six runs in 4 2/3 innings last weekend against Colorado.

“He had a difficult start there and I think it shows you he’s resilient and that he’s got really good stuff,” Shelton said.


Rays: Lowe exited in the fifth inning. Lowe was hit in the foot by a 91 mph slider. Cash said Lowe appears to have a broken toe and is “day to day.”

Pirates: Closer David Bednar was unavailable due to tightness in his left side. Shelton said Bednar will be re-evaluated on Sunday but added it is not related to the left lat injury that forced the two-time All-Star to miss most of spring training.


The series wraps up on Sunday when Pittsburgh’s electrifying rookie Paul Skenes (4-0, 2.29 ERA) faces Aaron Civale (2-5, 5.42).


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