BOSTON — The Rays have been sorting through myriad scenarios, moving parts and potential player moves to determine how to best cover 18 innings of pitching in Saturday’s doubleheader.
Yonny Chirinos made things a heck of a lot easier with a dazzling eight-inning outing Friday, leading the Rays to a 5-1 win over the Red Sox.
Chirinos retired the first 15 Red Sox in order and allowed just two hits over his eight shutout innings, throwing 101 pitches.
“They didn’t have much chance tonight,’’ said centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who did his part to help with four RBIs. “He just had the sinker, the splitter, the slider going and just had those guys off balance all night. Seemed like he left nothing over the heart of the plate. A lot of weak grounders, strikeouts.
“That was about as impressive as I’ve ever seen him throw. We needed that. Coming into a tough place to play, him shutting down that great offense like that is a lot easier said than done, but he went out and did just that. He’s been great for us all year. But tonight he was on another level.’’
By the end of the night, the Rays won a third straight, improving to 38-23 to further distance themselves from third-place Boston and moving within a half-game of the AL East-leading Yankees.
“Huge, huge win for us,’’ Kiermaier said.
Friday’s game was the first of four the teams will play over about 45 hours during the weekend, Saturday’s double duty the result of an April 26 rainout. With all the contingencies the Rays had in place — with Ryan Yarbrough now set to start Saturday’s Game 1 and Austin Pruitt added as the 26th man to likely work in the nightcap — Chirinos’ outing was even more important.
“What he just provided was huge … given that we’re playing four games in three days and we just had to go to one reliever,’’ manager Kevin Cash said.
It was the longest start by a Ray since Jake Faria went eight on April 30, 2018. Emilio Pagan finished, keeping alive the Rays’ stretch of 513 games without a complete game, which dates to Matt Andriese’s outing on May 14, 2016.
Chirinos said he was focused more on the process than the result.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even really thinking about whether they were getting a hit or not, I was just out there just going batter by batter and seeing what was going to happen,’’ the native of Venezuela said through team translator Manny Navarro.
Well maybe, until the sixth anyway.
The game moved quickly as for the second time in three outings Chirinos didn’t allow a hit through the first five innings. On May 27 against the Blue Jays, Cash pulled Chirinos after the fifth because, in walking two, he had thrown 69 pitches, 20 more than his previous outing and the Rays were more concerned about managing his workload than history.
On Friday, Chirinos was perfect through the first five innings, and efficient, throwing only 50 pitches, with maybe one hard-hit ball.
But the sixth didn’t start well. After one strike, he threw four balls to walk Brock Holt, ending the perfect game. Two pitches later, Jackie Bradley rolled a ground-ball single through the shift-opened shortstop spot for the first hit.
Chirinos got an out, but then a walk to Mookie Betts loaded the bases. Chirinos was up to it, coming back to strike out lefty-swingers Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, showing some uncharacteristic emotion on the mound.
“They’re both good hitters and of course I was going to show some emotion, I got them out,’’ said Chirinos, now 7-2, 2.87.
Cash noticed, too: “He showed emotion after the Benintendi (strikeout) and I kind of wanted to yell and remind him he had to get one more big one, but he did. That’s just a young pitcher really, really competing out there.’’
Cash raved about not just how effective Chirinos was in shutting out Boston but how efficient he was.
Kiermaier had one of his most productive nights of the season at the plate, continuing a recent roll. He drove in two with a two-out single in a fourth, slapped an opposite-field single to drive in another in the sixth, and homered in the ninth.
“I feel really good at the plate right now,’’ he said. “It always feels good driving guys in, making that contribution, knowing you did your job.’’
Several Rays did their job as Ji-Man Choi homered, Brandon Lowe and Avisail Garcia each had two hits, and Pagan worked the ninth.
But no one more than Chirinos.
"Probably couldn’t have asked for much more from him tonight,'' Cash said. "He was outstanding.''
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.