Josh Bell, Jose Osuna and Elias Dias spent the better part of five years climbing through the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization talking about the day they'd finally get a chance to make an impact in the big leagues.
The rookies have arrived just in time to help a scuffling team trying to stay in the mix in the wide-open and decidedly mediocre NL Central.
Bell hit his team-leading 15th home run , Osuna doubled twice and drove in two runs and Diaz added two hits and drove in two runs of his own as the Pirates jumped on Tampa Bay's Blake Snell early in a 6-2 victory on Wednesday night.
"Looking back 4-5 years ago playing together in West Virginia, going up through Double-A together, Triple-A, for us to be wining ballgames up here instills a lot of pride in us," Bell said.
Bell tied a Pirates rookie record by reaching 15 home runs before the All-Star break. Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner did it in 1946.
"It's cool to be mentioned in the same sentence as a great like that," Bell said. "So hopefully more to come. Just going to keep trucking along."
Ivan Nova (8-5) struggled with his command and failed to work into the sixth for the first time this season but picked up the win despite allowing seven hits and two walks in five innings. The Pirates improved to just 36-42 but are only four games behind first-place Milwaukee.
"It was a battle," Nova said. "These days, you feel like you have it but you don't. I didn't make a lot of pitches, but I made the right one when I needed to."
Corey Dickerson, Evan Longoria, Tim Beckham and Adeiny Hechavarria all had two hits each for the Rays but Tampa Bay went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.
Snell began the season as Tampa Bay's fourth starter but was sent down following a loss to Boston on May 13. He went 5-0 at Triple-A and manager Kevin Cash called Snell's re-insertion into the rotation as a chance for Snell to hit "reset."
It didn't take long for the control issues that plagued Snell over his first eight starts this season to resurface. Snell walked Andrew McCutchen and David Freese with two outs in the first. Osuna followed with a shot down the left field line that one-hopped into the stands to tie the game. A wild pitch allowed Freese to score Diaz added a two-run single to put the Pirates up 4-1. Snell retired seven straight before Bell's shot to the seats on the second pitch of the fourth put Pittsburgh up 5-2.
"I think you saw a young pitcher that was really excited to get back to the big leagues, probably was a little over amped and it showed up in the first inning," Cash said. "It's unfortunate, but I think a lot of that first inning went to Blake not being able to totally settle down. He was a little amped in his bullpen, a little erratic."
Snell left five innings, allowing six runs on four hits with five walks and four strikeouts. He has 30 walks in 46 innings this season.
Walks are never an issue for Nova, who came in having issued just 11 in 103 innings. Yet he lacked his usual crispness. He allowed at least one baserunner in each of his five innings but managed to avoid the big mistake, surrendering only Longoria's RBI double in the first and a sacrifice fly to Wilson Ramos in the third.
MAKING THE SHOW
Tampa Bay called up left-handed reliever Adam Kolarek from Triple-A Durham, the first big-league promotion of Kolarek's eight-year professional career. The Rays sent down relievers Austin Pruitt and Jose Alvarado and transferred CF Kevin Kiermaier (right hip fracture) from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Kolarek and Snell.
Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli (concussion) spent 20 minutes on a stationary bike Wednesday after being cleared to begin "light exertion" workouts. Cervelli spent a week on the disabled list earlier this month after sustaining a concussion on June 6 and returned to the disabled list last Thursday when playing exacerbated his symptoms. There is no timetable for Cervelli's return.
Rays: Chris Archer (6-4, 3.88 ERA) goes for his third straight victory on Thursday in the series finale.
Pirates: Jameson Taillon (3-2, 3.33) is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three starts since returning from the disabled list following a battle with testicular cancer.
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