ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays had gone more than three days, three time zones and the equivalent of more than three full games without scoring a run.
So it was only right that they wildly celebrated the one they finally got Saturday night.
Even more so that it gave them a 1-0 walkoff win after 13 innings, thus avoiding a second straight loss to the majors-worst Tigers, with rookie Mike Brosseau delivering the lone run. Plus it kept them, at 72-52, in control of the second American League wild-card spot while moving within a game of the top-card-holding Indians.
And with their pitchers combining to strike out 24, they set a major-league mark for most strikeouts in a game without a walk, and a team record for any game. They were two shy of the overall major-league record.
“Just an outstanding performance by obviously our pitching staff, guy to guy, everybody just kept it right there,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “We had to be patient a little bit, but glad we got the big hit.’’
That came from Brosseau, whose drive to right-center found turf around the drawn-in and shifted Detroit outfield. That scored Eric Sogard, who’d doubled with two outs to start the rally. Tommy Pham was intentionally walked by Matt Hall, bringing up Brosseau, who knew he would pinch hit there since it was the pitcher’s spot as the Rays had given up the DH, but wasn’t quite ready and had to scramble in the dugout.
“Obviously it felt amazing to be put in that situation and come through for this team,'' Brosseau said.
That ended a stretch of 29 scoreless innings by the Rays, going back to the first inning Wednesday in San Diego, and two shy of an ignominious team record they don’t want to get anywhere near, blanked for 31 straight innings in 2014.
The wild celebration was for the win, their fourth walkoff of the season, but also a little bit to end the frustration.
Brosseau was in the middle of with high-fives, hugs and more.
“There was a lot of helmet banging in that dog-pile type thing, so I don’t really know who hit me the hardest,’’ he said. “It was a good team effort.’’
Next was the obligatory sports drink bath, courtesy of Ji-Man Choi, that Brosseau just put up his arms and took full-on.
“I knew something like that was going to happen,’’ Brosseau said. “I didn’t expect Ji-Man to do it, but once I saw that, I was kind of just accepting it.’’
Sogard nearly was the man in the middle, as his drive hit high on the rightfield wall.
“I hit it well, I thought it was going to be close for sure,’’ he said, “You just hope we take advantage and get the job done because there were so many lost opportunities already.’’
That was the case, as the Rays had prime opportunities in the seventh, with two on and none out, and in the 11th, after loading the bases with one, and faltered both times. Of note, Cash used two-way player Brendan McKay for the first time off the bench, as a pinch-runner in the seventh.
While their hitters struggled, the Rays pitchers dazzled.
They were led by Ryan Yarbrough, who threw shutout ball for another 6 1/3 innings and struck out 10. By the end of the night, five others had joined in: Chaz Roe, Nick Anderson, Emilio Pagan, Diego Castillo and Colin Poche.
Their 24 strikeouts total were not only the most without a walk in major-league history (surpassing 22 by the Red Sox on May 8 in Baltimore, per Elias Sports) and the most by Rays pitchers in any game (eclipsing the 22 they fanned June 27 in an 18-inning game in Minnesota), but the most by an AL team since the Red Sox did it to the Rays on Sept. 15, 2017. The major-league record of 26 has been done four times, most recently by the Dodgers in 2017.
“That was really cool,’’ Pagan said. “Yarbrough set the tone from pitch one. We were in a lot of plus-counts, and we were able to execute when we were ahead. Give credit to (catchers) Travis (d’Arnaud) and (Mike Zunino) for putting down the right fingers at the right time. That was a special game.”
Over his past two starts, Yarbrough has put up 15 zeroes, allowing six hits and striking out 18. He was within one out of a complete game shutout last Sunday in Seattle when Cash pulled him. Overall he has a streak of 17 2/3 scoreless innings.. Going back to mid June, with a short stint in the minors in the middle, he is 6-0 with a 1.43 ERA over 11 appearances, allowing one or no earned runs in 10.
"I feel really good with where things are at,'' Yarbrough said, "It doesn’t mean I’m going to get complacent in any way. There are probably some things I’m going to look back off this outing and really try to focus on. To be able to continue those results and really be efficient and win another ballgame — I feel like we really needed to win this game. To continue to go out there and grind, and for us to win the game ... it was great as a team.”
The Rays came into play Saturday having been blanked in their previous 17-plus innings, having scored two in the first inning in Wednesday’s game at San Diego and nothing since.
They had a scheduled day off Thursday, and their hitters pretty much took Friday off, shut out by Detroit’s trio of Daniel Norris, Drew VerHagen and Joe Jimenez.
The blanking continued Saturday, with Tigers veteran Jordan Zimmermann, in his first start since Aug. 4 following a stint on the injured list for a neck/back issue, posting the first five zeroes. From there it was Jose Cisnero, Gregory Soto, Buck Farmer, Nick Ramirez and David McKay.
Until the Rays won it, they were looking at the possibility of losing two straight to the lowly Tigers (37-83).
“Losing two in a row to any team, at this point, you just don’t want that to happen,’’ Cash said. “When you’re getting these types of pitching performances, you really want to capitalize on them. I’m encouraged that we did that tonight.”
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.