SAN DIEGO — If you’ve still been thinking and talking about Rays manager Kevin Cash’s controversial decision to pull pitcher Ryan Yarbrough from Sunday’s game in Seattle one out from completing a shutout, you have company.
"I didn’t stop thinking about it,’’ Cash said before Monday’s late game against the Padres. “Obviously those decisions are challenging. …
“Anytime you take a ball from somebody in that situation it's difficult. I think in fairness though, you've got to stand by the decision and felt that was our best decision to help us win the game at that moment.’’
When Cash made an also surprising decision to pull Charlie Morton with two outs in the fifth of the July 30 game in Boston, he said afterward he was not sure if given the same choice he would have done so again.
He had no such second thoughts about the Yarbrough decision.
“If I’m being honest, no,’’ he said.
Cash’s decision was based on doing what he felt was best for the team, so his thinking was no doubt reinforced by the results.
Reliever Emilio Pagan got the final out to seal the 1-0 victory that completed a three-game sweep and pushed the Rays to a season-high 19 games over .500 at 69-50. Had Pagan blown the lead, the decision would certainly have been even more heavily scrutinized.
Conversely, had Cash left in Yarbrough, who’d thrown 99 pitches, to face Seattle righty slugger Domingo Santana for a fourth time and that backfired, Cash may have been accused of putting a potential individual achievement ahead of the team.
The decision was a popular topic of radio, TV and social media discussion. Several Rays players said they talked about it after the game, sharing in Yarbrough’s frustration but ultimately pretty much all understanding the common goal. “I think after the win we had our celebration; everyone was fine,’’ said centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier.
“I saw a lot of what people were saying and for me to actually break it down … at first I was pretty frustrated because I thought (Yarbrough) earned it. He obviously earned it,’’ said starter Blake Snell, currently on the injured list.
“But with it being a 1-0 game and their best hitter up to the plate, going with Pagan, who’s been nothing but spectacular for us, and is coming in fresh. … He did what was right for us to win. And he put the team first instead of Yarbrough trying to get a shutout complete game, which is what everybody wants to see.
“Yarbs did his job. Cash made a decision that was very tough. But it’s always in the best interest of the team," Snell sad. "And that’s something that I’ve always respected from him. He doesn’t really care what people think about him. He’s trying to win and he’s doing what’s best for this team. At the end of the day, yeah, it sucks. But he did what was right. ‘’
Cash got that, too.
“I can’t speak for each individual player; I would imagine there's frustration because Yarbs is their teammate,’’ he said. “And in fairness, that's how we want them to be - cover your teammate, be a good teammate and support each other.
“But I certainly hope that we all understand that the decisions we make are for the best of the club and we're trying to win as many games as possible.’’
The complete game was a bigger deal because the Rays haven’t had once since Matt Andriese’s outing on May 14, 2016, an MLB record streak of 571 games without.
And they haven’t really come close.
The only pitcher in that span to even work into the ninth during that span was Alex Cobb, on July 21, 2017, vs. Texas.
And that didn’t end well. Cobb opened the ninth with a 3-1 lead, gave up a double to Joey Gallo on his second pitch and a home run to Shin-Soo Choo on his third that tied it, and the Rays lost in 10 innings.
“Oh shoot, I remember that,’’ Cobb said Monday by phone. “It happened really quick.’’
Cobb said he badly wanted to finish that game, noting how “special” of a feeling and significant an accomplishment it is for a pitcher, especially in the current era that de-emphasizes starting pitching.
“Those feel bad,’’ said Cobb, now with Baltimore and rehabbing from season-ending hip surgery. “As much as you want to be the guy to hook everybody up and make them all look smart, you feel the opposite when it doesn’t work out that way.''
Cobb wondered if his performance factored his game into Sunday’s decision, though Cash said he didn’t.
Yarbrough said he appreciated Cash caring enough to check in with him, calling him into his office for a chat Monday afternoon.
“He was kind of telling me where his thought process was and obviously I understand,’’ Yarbrough said. “It was all good things. We kind of ran through to see how I was feeling. It’s not going to affect me, how I go about my business or anything else. It’s just something you've got to kind of move past.’’
Yarbrough did have a point to make with Cash: “I told him, you know I was gonna get the guy out.’’
Maybe next time, if there is a next time, he’ll get the chance.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.