ST. PETERSBURG — As days go, Ryan Yarbrough will be hard-pressed to top Monday, when he received his American League championship ring and he and expectant wife Nicole learned the gender (a girl) of their first child.
His attempt to deliver a sequel to such euphoria Tuesday night was short-lived.
After a partially promising start, the struggling left-hander watched the Rangers exploit him for four runs on five hits in the top of the fourth en route to an 8-3 Rays loss before a Tropicana Field audience of 4,753. The Rays (5-6), who left 14 base runners stranded, now have blown a lead in five of their six defeats.
“We didn’t have our best showing tonight,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Yarbrough (0-2, 6.48 ERA) is winless in his last 20 starts dating to Aug. 17, 2019. His nine-game losing streak as a starter is the club’s longest since Jason Hammel lost 10 in a row from April 2006 to August 2007.
In his last two starts, Yarbrough has allowed 12 earned runs in 11 innings.
“I feel like that’s been what’s happened the last two outings — just the one inning that everything kind of piles up at one point, so that’s really frustrating,” Yarbrough said.
Yet for a brief juncture, it appeared Yarbrough’s blissful Monday might seep into Tuesday.
He opened things by issuing a single to struggling leadoff batter Isiah Kiner-Falefa, then was charged with a balk after apparently dropping the ball while on the rubber.
“I honestly didn’t even know what it was,” he said. “I kind of came in after the half and asked, like, ‘What, specifically, made it a balk?’”
The balk erased a potential double-play grounder to second by No. 2 batter David Dahl. A one-out Joey Gallo base hit scored Kiner-Falefa, and Jose Trevino followed with a single. Yarbrough then escaped the jam by forcing former Ray Nate Lowe into a fielder’s-choice grounder and striking out Adolis Garcia with a change-up.
Yarbrough would re-take the mound with a 2-1 lead. Joey Wendle’s one-out double scored Randy Arozarena to tie the score in the bottom of the first, and Wendle scored on Yandy Diaz’s infield single that got under the glove of second baseman Nick Solak, who was charged with an error.
Yarbrough then got through the second on eight pitches, ending it with a strikeout to No. 9 batter Charlie Culberson. Stifling Texas’ lineup with an assortment of cutters and curveballs, he retired seven Rangers in a row before Texas — scoreless in its last 22 innings entering Tuesday’s contest — sent eight batters to the plate in the fourth.
Trevino, Lowe and Garcia all singled before Solak cleared the bases with a double on a change-up that Yarbrough said he left too high. Culberson’s one-out single would score Solak, giving the guests (4-7) a 5-2 lead.
“Unfortunately, that’s going to happen from time to time, kind of get bled to death a little bit there, and then the one solid drive to kind of knock him out,” Wendle said.
“We know (Yarbrough) is going to go out there and get soft contact, he’s going to throw strikes, and he did that tonight. A couple of balls found holes ... but we have all the confidence in the world in him.”
Yarbrough worked two more mostly uneventful innings before exiting. His final line: 10 hits and six runs (all earned) in six innings, with six strikeouts, a walk and the balk. Meantime, Rangers starter Kyle Gibson found his groove after the Rays’ two-run first, allowing only two hits over the next six innings.
“I think it’s one of those things where you have to understand that it’s early,” Yarbrough said. “But at the same time, you work really hard at this craft and you want to go out there and put a good product on the field, so it ends up being really frustrating.”
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