BRADENTON, Fla. -- Andrew McCutchen blasted his first home run of the spring and Gift Ngoepe singled home the tie-breaking run in the eighth inning as the Pirates beat the Rays, 4-3, on Friday at McKechnie Field.McCutchen led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo blast to
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Andrew McCutchen blasted his first home run of the spring and Gift Ngoepe singled home the tie-breaking run in the eighth inning as the Pirates beat the Rays, 4-3, on Friday at McKechnie Field.
McCutchen led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo blast to left field, sending Jake Odorizzi's pitch into a parking lot well past the boardwalk beyond the park's outfield wall. The Pirates' fourth Spring Training homer, their first at home, gave them a 1-0 lead.
But the Rays answered right back, as second baseman Taylor Motter began the fifth inning by crushing a solo shot to left-center field off Pirates setup man Tony Watson. The second baseman's game-tying homer was Motter's first of the spring.
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Tampa Bay took the lead in the sixth, when third baseman Juan Diaz's error allowed Brad Miller to reach safely and Desmond Jennings to score. Motter then doubled to left off Pirates prospect Steven Brault, scoring Curt Casali and giving the Rays a two-run lead.
Odorizzi held the Pirates to three hits and two walks while striking out three over 3 1/3 innings. Rays top pitching prospect Blake Snell took over in the fifth, striking out three and walking two in 1 2/3 innings.
"Getting up and down four times was really good considering I only did it twice last time," Odorizzi said. "I'm just trying to experiment with off-speed pitches with two-strike counts, and I think that's kind of driving my pitch count up a little bit. But at the same time, I'd rather work on it now, where nothing matters besides getting my pitches in, so I'm happy with the progression I made from the last start to this one."
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Right-hander Juan Nicasio struck out three batters over three scoreless innings. Nicasio is likely bound for the Bucs' bullpen, but the club continues to stretch him out to provide additional rotation depth.
"I'm feeling strong. I was feeling better in the third," Nicasio said. "I'm feeling better with my breaking ball. I'm feeling really good."
The Pirates tied the game on a pair of throwing errors in the bottom of the eighth before taking the lead on Ngoepe's single.
Up next for the Pirates: Left-hander Jeff Locke will make his third start of the spring on Saturday when the Pirates travel to play the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. ET, and the game will air on Gameday Audio. Pittsburgh will send out four relievers hoping to secure the final spot in the Opening Day bullpen: John Holdzkom, Eric O'Flaherty, Jorge Rondon and Curtis Partch.
Up next for the Rays:Matt Moore draws his second start of the spring on Saturday when the Rays host the Yankees in a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup to be broadcast on MLB.TV. Moore pitched two innings against Boston on Monday, allowing one run on one hit (a Mookie Betts leadoff home run). Pitchers Alex Colome, Xavier Cedeno, Ryan Webb, Dana Eveland and Jhan Marinez will also see action for the Rays. The Yankees will counter with right-hander Luis Severino.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.