- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon is taking a short-term approach in a season that is looking less promising each day.

Pedro Alvarez hit a three-run homer to back the pitching of Edinson Volquez and lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 8-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Monday night.

The Rays, with the majors’ worst record at 31-47, have lost 19 of 27. Tampa Bay had no bounce coming off a four-game series in which it beat Houston three times.

“It’s about right now,” Maddon said. “It’s winning the series.”

Andrew McCutchen went 3 for 5, drove in two runs and stole two bases for the Pirates in a homecoming of sorts for the 2013 NL MVP, who grew up in nearby Fort Meade and had never played before at Tropicana Field. He also scored twice in Pittsburgh’s first appearance in St. Petersburg since 2003.

Alvarez went deep off Alex Cobb (2-6) during a four-run fourth inning that also featured the first of McCutchen’s two RBI singles.

Maddon earlier set a goal of rebounding to a .500 record, which would require a 19-3 run.

“I feel like with every loss it’s an opportunity missed,” Cobb said.” We’re fighting. Feels like if we’re going to do this we need to get on a streak to really reached the ultimate goal of being 50-50. If we’re going to start doing that, we need to start getting on a hot streak now.”

Cobb, making his seventh start since spending five weeks on the disabled list with a left oblique strain, allowed six runs and six hits in five innings.

Volquez (5-6) allowed five hits in a season-high eight innings.

James Loney drove in Tampa Bay’s only run with a two-out, first-inning single, and the Pirates helped their starting pitcher by turning three double plays.

The Rays have been held to one run or less 21 times this season.

“They played a wonderful game tonight,” Maddon said of the Pirates.

McCutchen, who is batting .366 in June, boosted his average in 11 interleague games to .425 with nine walks, four doubles and seven RBIs. His run-scoring single off Cobb moved him ahead of Brian Giles for the Pirates career record for RBIs in interleague action with 52. He added another in the ninth off Kirby Yates.

Alvarez, meanwhile, is hitting .317 with two home runs and eight RBIs against AL teams this season. His 12th homer of the year, a first-pitch drive over the wall in center field, gave him his first RBIs in two weeks.

Volquez won for the third time in his last five starts. The right-hander walked two, struck out one and didn’t allow a hit after the fourth inning.

Three of Tampa Bay’s six hits were infield singles, including Kevin Kiermaier’s second-inning bunt. Jeanmar Gomez pitched the ninth for the Pirates, yielding a two-out single to Loney.

NOTES: The Rays haven’t announced if RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) will need one more minor league start before returning. .. Tampa Bay 1B-OF Jerry Sands has a wrist injury, which Maddon said could require surgery. Sands was placed on the 15-day DL and INF Cole Figueroa was recalled from Triple-A Durham. … The Rays have grounded into a major league-high 71 double plays.

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