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Moore rebounds in Rays' dominant pitching effort

Zobrist, Escobar chip in two-run singles in decisive third inning

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay put together a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park.

Matt Moore started for the Rays, returning to the mound to again face the Pirates after failing to get out of the first inning in his last start, Saturday, when he allowed four earned runs.

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Thursday's Moore fared better than Saturday's, but the Rays southpaw still showed some rust in a 69-pitch outing that saw him allow no runs on two hits and three walks, while striking out three.

Moore left the game with one out in the fourth and runners on the corners. Heath Bell came in and slammed the door on the Pirates, first striking out Jordy Mercer before retiring Jose Tabata on a groundout to end the threat.

Though Moore threw just 34 strikes, he called his outing positive, particularly because of his previous start.

"I think it's pretty hard to have a negative [outing] after last time," said Moore allowing himself a smile. "It was definitely a step forward today."

Bell added another immaculate frame in the fifth, looking sharp while doing so.

Jeanmar Gomez, who is making a bid to earn a spot in the Pirates' rotation, made his first start and fourth appearance of the spring. After two scoreless frames, the 26-year-old right-hander ran into trouble in the third.

Ryan Hanigan singled to lead off the inning and Brandon Guyer followed with a double to left. Ben Zobrist then singled to center to drive home both runners.

Yunel Escobar added a two-run single to make it 4-0 and chase Gomez from the game with one out in the inning. Zack Thornton took over and struck out Wilson Betemit and Wil Myers to prevent any further damage.

The Pirates got on the board in the eighth inning when Tony Sanchez began the inning with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Omir Santos brought him home with an RBI single up the middle.

Starling Marte went 2-for-3 with a stolen base for Pittsburgh. Thornton, Bryan Morris, Phil Irwin and Duke Welker combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings after Gomez left the game.

Up Next: Chris Archer starts for the Rays on Friday afternoon when the team travels to Kissimmee, Fla., for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Braves on Gameday Audio. The Rays right-hander is coming off two strong road outings against the Red Sox and Yankees. In 5 1/3 innings, he has not allowed a run.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for

Tampa Bay Rays, Yunel Escobar, Matt Moore, Ben Zobrist