KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Held hitless through five innings and down three runs Saturday night, the Rays felt pretty confident when they came back to get even with the Royals in the seventh.
“Certainly liked our chances,” manager Kevin Cash said.
But they came up short at the end, as Ryan Yarbough yielded eighth-inning home runs to Michael A. Taylor and Bobby Witt Jr. to give the Royals a 6-3 win.
“You felt we were in a good spot going into the eighth inning, and it was just two pitches, but definitely tough,” Yarbrough said. “And something that will sit with you for a little bit when just two pitches is the change of the game.”
Yarbrough was working his fourth inning of relief behind Luis Patino, who pitched his way back to Triple-A with another ineffective start.
The Rays had left- and right-handed relievers warming up as the lefty Yarbrough faced the right-handed Taylor with one out in the eighth.
Cash said he wanted to stick with Yarbrough because he felt he had been sharp and liked the matchup against Taylor and the two lefties due to hit after him. He said he was saving righty Ryan Thompson in case the Royals pinch-hit for one of the ensuing lefties, and lefty Brooks Raley for a left-on-left strikeout situation.
Taylor hitting the ball over the left-centerfield fence was an unexpected outcome.
“Unfortunate, because ‘Yarbs’ did give us a chance right there,” Cash said.
With the Rays down 4-3, Thompson and Raley sat down. Yarbrough allowed a single, got the second out and then gave up a two-run homer on the first pitch to Witt, the impressive rookie and son of former Devil Rays pitcher Bobby Witt.
“(Taylor) and Witt Jr.’s especially hurt when we’re feeling like we’re getting a lot of mojo towards the end of that game there,” Yarbrough said.
The loss dropped the Rays to 52-42, though they hung on to the top spot in the American League wild-card field.
Just to tie the game in the seventh was something of an accomplishment, given they were held without a hit and struck out 10 times through the first five innings by Brady Singer, the Royals’ 2018 first-round pick from the University of Florida.
New outfielder Roman Quinn took care of that, pushing a bunt toward first base to open the sixth and racing to beat the toss to the base, the call standing up to a replay review. Neither Cash nor Quinn felt there was anything inappropriate about bunting to break up a no-hitter, given the inning and the close 3-0 score.
“None whatsoever,” Cash said. “I would have no issue if somebody did that against us. Not at all.” There were no apparent complaints from the Royals.
The bunt eventually led to a run, with Luke Raley — making a surprising start in the No. 3 hole — singling in Yandy Diaz, who reached on a fielder’s choice and moved up on an error.
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Quinn, who was making his first start after signing with the Rays Thursday after opting out of a Triple-A contract with the Royals a few days earlier, had a bigger hit the next inning. The former Phillie lashed a two-out triple that scored Taylor Walls and Francisco Mejia to make it 3-3.
“I‘m just thankful that I was able to get back on the field again,” Quinn said.
Patino, pitching with recently blue-dyed hair in tribute to injured teammate Harold Ramirez (whose hair had a blue hue), had a second straight ineffective outing after a long injury absence.
Patino allowed three runs over four innings on seven hits and three walks, throwing 72 pitches, only 41 for strikes. Of 14 balls put in play against him, seven were hit harder than 95 mph.
“They definitely hit some balls hard,” Patino said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I also think just balls landed their way sometimes. You’ve just got to continue on.”
In his case, to Triple-A Durham, as he is being optioned to make room for Jeffrey Springs to be activated off the injured list to start Sunday.
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