by Steve Carney
The Rays used a four-run third inning, along with strong outings by Matt Moore and Heath Bell among others to earn their third straight spring win, a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Port Charlotte.
Ryan Hanigan singled and Brandon Guyer doubled, both scoring on a single by Zobrist for a 2-0 lead. David DeJesus then singled, and James Loney walked two batters later to load the bases. Escobar then drove in Zobrist and DeJesus with a single of his own to double the lead.
Moore only allowed two hits while pitching into the fourth, but also walked three Pittsburgh hitters, and of his 69 pitches, only 34 were strikes.
Heath Bell got out of a jam to save Moore in the fourth, and had a scoreless fifth, while Juan Sandoval kept Pittsburgh off the board for the sixth and seventh.
Adam Liberatore allowed a run in the eighth thanks to a single by Omir Santos, scoring Tony Sanchez, but got double plays to end both the eighth inning and the game.
Tampa Bay heads to Orlando Friday in search of their fourth straight win, taking on the Atlanta Braves. Chris Archer will get the start taking on David Hale at 1:05.
NOTES: Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. threw out the first pitch in Thursday's game. Ripken's group owns the Rays single-A affiliate Charlotte Stone Crabs. After Thursday's game, pitchers Jeff Beliveau, Nathan Karns, C.J. Riefenhauser and Kirby Yates, along with infielder Vince Belnome, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, and outfielder Kevin Kiermaier were all optioned to Triple-A Durham. Outfielder Mikie Mahtook was also reassigned to minor-league camp.