ST. PETERSBURG — The soreness was still there in Tyler Glasnow’s right arm, plus the sadness that even with a relatively good-news diagnosis, he will still miss at least 4-6 weeks.
Travis d’Arnaud made a strong first impression behind the plate, though replacing injured catchers Mike Zunino and Michael Perez will remain a pain as the schedule becomes more taxing in coming weeks.
But the Rays were feeling better about themselves Saturday after playing more like themselves in a 7-2 victory over the Yankees before a Trop sellout of 25,025.
“We needed a win,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “(Friday) probably was the low point of the season, given ultimately that we lost a tough ball game. And also knowing we’re scrambling to find some catchers, and we lost one of the best pitchers in baseball in the early part of the season. It was good to see the guys bounce back.’’
The win improved the Rays to 24-14 and put them in position, with ace Blake Snell on the mound Sunday, to take the series, the first of back-to-back weekend matchups against New York. Plus, they reopened a 1½ game AL East lead over the Yankees, so they’ll still come out of the weekend in first place no matter what.
“The depth of the team has been a strength from the start,’’ said Saturday opener Ryne Stanek. “So we can come out on a day like this and beat a good team that’s been playing well. That’s a testament to how mentally tough and sharp this team is and can be.’’
After a couple of sloppy games, prompting Cash to note on his pregame radio show that “our defense isn’t helping any of our pitchers out,’’ the Rays played a crisper game.
They got good pitching from Stanek, who worked the first two innings, bulk-guy and potential Glasnow replacement Yonny Chirinos over the next four, then Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado getting the final nine outs.
They got a clean defensive effort, including a leaping first-inning catch by centerfielder Guillermo Heredia that Cash called “a little bit of a tone-setter. With the way we lost (Friday), that ball finds the wall or something.’’
And they got a combination offense of both muscle and hustle.
Yandy Diaz continued his remarkable power show by hitting two homers, giving him a team-high nine, and on a pace pushing 40. Avisail Garcia added another.
“I’ve actually surprised myself,’’ Diaz, who hit one homer in his first 88 games for Cleveland pretrade, said via team translator Manny Navarro. “I’ve never had those numbers in the past, but I think just swinging hard and hopefully getting the results that are happening this year. … I wasn’t always a power or home run hitter, but things have changed.’’
In between the early solo homers off a not-sharp CC Sabathia and Diaz’s three run shot in the eighth, the Rays hustled their way to retake a 4-2 lead after the Yankees tied it.
In doing so they showed the merits of putting the ball in play in key situations, which has been a problem as in the previous two games they were just 2-for-24 with runners in scoring position, including 12 strikeouts.
Garcia opened the sixth with a single, stole second with two outs and went to third on an errant throw. A Heredia walk put runners on the corners.
Willy Adames hit a grounder up the middle that second baseman DJ LeMahieu fielded but couldn’t make the toss to second to force Heredia, allowing Garcia to score. That paid off again when Ji-Man Choi grounded to the right side and beat the throw to first as Heredia kept running around third and scored.
“We didn’t necessarily knock the cover off the ball that inning, but we found spots, we put (on) some pressure,’’ Cash said. “Putting the ball in play does put on some added pressure.’’
“Anytime you’re in a game like that and don’t finish off an inning the way you can, it’s frustrating,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We just couldn’t get the final out there, unfortunately.’’
The Yankees had other issues, at least some upset that Chirinos hit two of their batters in sixth: Luke Voit after LeMahieu’s homer and Gary Sanchez following a double play.
Sabathia, who was involved in a beanball exchange with the Rays last year, said “it’s just the same thing” and “it’s stupid.’’
Voit said he was mad that Chirinos hit him on top of the shoulder: “I’m not saying he was (doing it intentionally) or he wasn’t. He can hit me anywhere else. It’s just when it’s up and in, it’s a sketchy situation that can be career-ending.’’
The Rays were focused on other things.
“It’s fun to beat these guys all the time, especially in our division. They’re right behind us,’’ Chirinos said, via Navarro. “We’re a good team, and we feel comfortable playing against anyone, and let’s just hope we can keep playing the way we are.”
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.