ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are at that point of the season where they no longer are concerned with the how.It’s all about wins, and getting as many as they can to clinch a playoff spot, and then improve their seeding in the expanded field by finishing first in their division, then the best record in the league.They did that Tuesday, taking advantage of mistakes, missteps and misplays by the Nationals for a 6-1 victory.Tampa Bay improved to 31-17 and, with 12 games remaining, extended its American League East lead to four games over the now second-place Yankees. The Rays also reduced their magic number to four (combination of their wins and opponent losses) for clinching a playoff spot, and they could be celebrating — in the subdued manner of 2020 — as soon as Thursday night."I think we put ourselves in a good situation to kind of see that finish line, and it’s right around the corner,'' infielder Mike Brosseau said. “Obviously we’ve got to get there first and do our jobs to get in. But once we get in, start playing our best ball and roll through the playoffs.”Tuesday’s victory was a combination of good pitching, especially by Ryan Yarbrough, who worked 5⅓ strong innings behind opener John Curtiss, and an opportunistic offense.That included one run set up by a balk, then a four-run “rally” in the fifth, which included a hit batter, an intentional walk to Yoshi Tsutsugo (which they chose on the full-count ball rather than another balk), a 62 mph ground ball by Manuel Margot that eluded the Nationals, a bases loaded walk by Nate Lowe and an opposite-field two-run single by Kevin Kiermaier off a lefty. They also stole a season-high five bases in the game.Going 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and leaving nine on rarely looks this good."You’ve got to capitalize,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "We’ve left our fair share of guys on base here as of late. It was nice to turn that around (Tuesday).''The Rays took a 2-0 lead in the second. One on a 416-foot blast by Lowe, whom the team will be counting on more heavily with Ji-Man Choi joining Yandy Diaz on the injured list. Lowe seemed to get a bigger kick later in the game out of his first career stolen base, which his younger brother Josh, a Rays minor-leaguer, made sure to note."I already got a group text that Josh sent that said 2020 is the wildest year ever because I have more stolen bases than he does,'' Lowe said. "I’ll put that one on the shelf and let it roll for a little bit.''The other run in the inning came when Kiermaier singled and moved to second on Anibal Sanchez’s balk, putting Kiermaier in position to score on Kevan Smith’s screaming single, with an exit velocity of 109.5 mph.The four-run outburst in the fifth came somewhat courtesy of the Nationals, but Cash said the inspiration might have been Yarbrough’s impressive work getting out of a two-on, no-outs jam in the top half of the inning.The Nats sacrificed one out with Victor Robles bunting the runners up to third and second. But Yarbrough got Adam Eaton on a soft grounder and Trea Tuner on a popup, which left the dangerous Juan Soto in the on-deck circle."I think our offense really got going after what Yarbs did,'' Cash said. "That was a big, big moment in the ballgame.''Yarbrough worked very hard throughout spring training and Spring 2.0 to graduate from pitching behind an opener to being a full-time starter.But given that Yarbrough was admittedly out of rhythm and lasted only 2⅔ innings against the same Nationals in his previous start after a 10-day stint on the injured list, the Rays, with a better-stocked bullpen, opted to use John Curtiss in front of him Tuesday.It worked out well all around.Curtiss got the first four outs, then Yarbrough came in and pitched aggressively, had crisper stuff and was definitely in a rhythm and on a roll. He was rewarded with his first win since Aug. 12, 2019 — 8⅔ innings at Seattle — with 16 games in between."Fine-tuning a couple things that still feel like I’m just a tad off,'' Yarbrough said. "But a whole lot better, especially rhythm and timing ... from the last outing. Really got the breaking balls going, keeping guys off balance. Especially since (it was) that same lineup, get a little redemption. ... Definitely something to build off of.''It was only the fourth time this season, and the first since Aug. 20, that the Rays used an opener, the innovative strategy they introduced in 2018 and used heavily through last season, including once in the playoffs and 99 times total, with a 59-40 record.They are 4-0 this year with the opener and will do it again Wednesday as Pete Fairbanks starts ahead of rookie Josh Fleming.Whatever it takes to win."We’re not taking anything for granted,'' Yarbrough said. "We’re not assuming we’re going to get there. We know we still have to work for it.''.