BALTIMORE — Willy Adames was scrolling through his phone during the nearly 2 1/2-hour pause for rain in the middle of the Rays’ Thursday night game against the Orioles when an Instagram direct message caught his eye.
"Somebody said, "The game had been going for like five minutes and you’ve already got two errors, you suck,' '' Adames recounted. "I read that during the rain delay, and I was just laughing.''
Better for the Rays, by the end of the long night he did plenty about it, playing a key role in the 5-2 victory.
The game did not start well for the Rays shortstop, who made throwing errors on the first two plays that led to a pair of Orioles runs off starter Ryan Yarbrough.
But he hit a home run in the fifth inning before the delay to get the Rays even, and then after they resumed a two-run single in the sixth to put them ahead to stay.
"That’s not the best way to start a game,'' Adames said. "I put the team in a bad situation. But I’m glad the guys stayed with positive energy and we battled and we got the win.''
And Adames got a bit of redemption.
"It makes me feel good that I did something to help the team get that win,'' he said.
With the win, the Rays improved to 75-54 and moved back into the AL playoff field, percentage points behind the A’s for the top wild-card spot, and one-half game ahead of the outside-looking-in Indians.
They also improved to 12-6 in the final days of their 21-game stretch against teams with losing records, with three more to come against the Orioles this weekend.
Yarbrough overcame the rough start and didn’t allow anything else, retiring 11 straight in one stretch, until the game was delayed with one on and one out in the fifth tied 2-2. He’d thrown only 68 pitches, but the delay was way too long for him to return, with an hour even pushing it.
"I was really happy about that, keeping us in the ballgame after that,'' he said. "You get a 2-0 deficit early on, but you realize there’s a ton of game left and you just focus on what you can control.''
Though the runs, one earned and one not, ended Yarbrough’s streak of 17 2/3 scoreless innings, which covered his past two outings and part of a third, he recovered from the early ambush and still pitched well, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out five over his 4 1/3 innings.
"Yarbs was outstanding,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "It stunk that the rain came and we had to sit there and wait. I know he wanted to continue pitching, but we’re just not going to do that. He looked just as good as he has the last six, seven outings.''
The game was stopped at 8:43 and play resumed at 10:59 p.m., after the 2-hour and 16-minute delay. Only a few hundred fans, if that, from the original announced 8,153 stuck around, though those who did were allowed to sit anywhere they wanted.
After Yarbrough, the Rays used Oliver Drake (who got the win), Colin Poche (who hit two of the three batters he faced), Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado (who created a mess to start the eighth), Nick Anderson (who cleaned it up) and Emilio Pagan to finish.
Austin Meadows homered in the third, his team-leading 22nd, which allowed the Orioles pitchers to break a dubious major-league record, giving up their 259th round-tripper, surpassing the previous high by the 2016 Reds. He also doubled off the wall in the ninth and came around to score on the Rays favorite new play, the wild pitch.
Adames’ homer in the fifth was his 16th of the season and 13th on the road. His splits are so significant that he joked about either wearing his gray uniform on the road or spending the night before the next homestand opens at the Vinoy hotel.
In the sixth. Jesus Aguilar drew a one-out walk and Matt Duffy doubled to end an 0-for-15, then Adames delivered them both with a single to left. The throwing errors, one wide of first and one that sailed past the plate on a relay, seemed a long time ago.
"Willy’s done really good things defensively for us,'' Cash said. "You’re not going to play shortstop at this level and not have some defensive hiccups at times. But it is encouraging he can come back and impact the game in such a positive way.''
The Rays made it 5-2 in the ninth when Meadows doubled, went to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch.
The Adames errors put Yarbrough in an unusual spot, as those were the first runs he’d allowed since Aug. 6.
At a time when the Rays are desperately trying to piece together pitching to cover three games out of five, Yarbrough has stepped out from behind an opener and stepped right in behind Charlie Morton to give the Rays a solid second starter.
Cash made it quite clear before the game that he felt Yarbrough, now 11-3, 3.29, was the right man to have on the mound.
“He’s done more than step up, he’s dominated,’’ Cash said. “He’s turned into a guy that we really count on, rely on for good reason. He just goes out there and competes. And it seems like every time he takes the mound we have a chance to win the game …
“I think Yarbs is really driven. He came in, we talked a couple weeks ago. We talked about the opener, the bulk guys following and stuff like that. I think he was ready for a challenge to get an opportunity to get more traditional with the starting role.
“Obviously we’re doing it a lot now because of how well he’s pitched. And at the same time out of need. He’s very motivated, very driven to be really good. And he has been.’’
Yarbrough said it’s more than just a good run. “I wholeheartedly think this is something I can do,” he said Wednesday. “I’m really excited about where I’m at right now. This is what I know I can do.”
The Players Weekend name game
Some of the nicknames the Rays players will be sporting this weekend are fun, such as Emilio Pagan using EMILIOOOO from the movie scene in A Night at the Roxbury; Travis d’Arnaud’s LITTLE “D” playing off his name; Mike Brosseau’s FRENCHY because that’s what coach Ozzie Timmons calls him since he can’t pronounce his name; Oliver Drake’s BUCKO, which was a childhood name; and Jesus Aguilar’s EL CAUSA, which he said is Venezuelan slang for a good buddy.
But the coaches’ nicknames are much more interesting. That’s because they agreed to take suggestions, some snarky, from each other that were written anonymously on a white board during the spring. Of note, no staffer will admit to making the final decisions and submittals.
But that is how Cash’s jersey reads ROCCO’S SEAT WARMER, tying in former coach and current Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. Other coach nicknames: Matt Quatraro FUN POLICE, Kyle Snyder MR. 5 FOR 5, Chad Mottola’ 50-50, Rodney Linares EL CAPITAN, Timmons OVERTIME, Paul Hoover EL SENSITIVO and Jonathan Erlichman RESULTS MATTER.
Other player names worth noting: Adames THE KID, Jose Alvarado POCHO (a fruit), Guillermo Heredia EL CONDE (his dad’s nickname), Morton GROUND CHUCK, Chaz Roe RANCH, Aaron Slegers SLEGHAMMER and Eric Sogard NERD POWER (with an emoji).
Medical matters: Garcia, Wendle
Outfielder Avisail Garcia went 2-for-3 and played seven innings in rightfield for Triple-A Durham in a final test of his slightly strained right oblique that landed him on the injured list. If he comes out feeling okay, he will join the club in Baltimore and be activated when eligible on Saturday. … A day of rest made infielder Joey Wendle’s sore right wrist feel better, which has the Rays optimistic he will be playing again soon, which is more important with news that Brandon Lowe is out for the season. Cash said the Rays will limit the number of swings Wendle takes to try to keep him on the field, first during the rest of his rehab assignment at Durham, then when he returns to the Rays, potentially next week. “Hopefully he can get back … and play, and we’ll just watch his workload going forward,’’ Cash said.
• The Rays have to create a space on their 40-man roster Friday to reinstate lefty Anthony Banda from the 60-day injured list as his thrice-extended rehab from Tommy John surgery ended. They could move either Yandy Diaz or Lowe to the 60-day injured list.
• With the Orioles choosing to wear the all-black uniforms for Players Weekend, the Rays will wear all white. (Which, given their home struggles, doesn’t bode well.) But MLB decided the pitchers will wear black caps so as not to have any advantage in hiding the ball during their delivery. “Really bad idea; not sure how that came about,’’ Cash said. “I think that’s overkill.’’
• The Rays confirmed after the game that Trevor Richards will start Friday. The Rays have Jalen Beeks lined up for bulk innings on Sunday, and Austin Pruitt a potential callup for Saturday, but Cash said they are working through things.