Playoff appearances by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays a year ago may seem like distant memories now, but both clubs are hoping solid efforts in their previous series will help them turn around their fortunes.
The Rays host the Pirates for the first time in 11 seasons in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.
Expectations were high for both teams going into this year after Tampa Bay (31-46) went to the postseason for the fourth time in six seasons and Pittsburgh ended a 21-year playoff drought.
However, the Rays are languishing with baseball’s worst record while the Pirates are trying to get back to .500 for the second time since April 17.
Pittsburgh (37-38) took the final two games of a weekend road series against the Chicago Cubs, winning 2-1 on Sunday. Brandon Cumpton pitched seven scoreless innings for the victory.
Tampa Bay took three of four from Houston, capping the series with a 5-2 win Sunday. Evan Longoria had three hits and Yunel Escobar and Sean Rodriguez each drove in two runs.
Loney got Sunday off after going 5 for 13 in the first three games against the Astros.
The Rays will also start a right-hander in Alex Cobb (2-5, 3.49), who has never faced the Pirates. Cobb has gone 5-2 with a 3.16 ERA in eight career interleague starts.
He went 7-0 with a 2.81 ERA in 13 regular-season home starts in 2013 but is 0-3 with a 3.30 ERA in five outings at Tropicana Field this year, with Tampa Bay failing to provide any support for him four times.
Josh Harrison or Clint Barmes figure to get one final start at second base Monday. Regular second baseman Neil Walker, out since June 8 due to an appendectomy, is expected to be activated by the Pirates on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh has won five of nine all-time meetings, taking two of three in its lone visit to Tampa in 2003.