NEW YORK — Ryan Yarbrough was in the middle of the action Monday night.
And that was just in the clubhouse after the 4-0 win over the Yankees.
He was trying to defend himself after hearing that manager Kevin Cash had been joking about the defensive prowess the lefty pitcher thinks he has. And he was getting congratulated by his Rays teammates for getting his first win since September, as the Rays took a 1-0 lead into the ninth, then added on.
“I mean, you’re not really looking forward to getting your first one in August,” Yarbrough said. “But that’s one of those things, just been grinding throughout the year. Wins and losses are really kind of tough to gauge at times. So to finally get one, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I didn’t know about it after the game. So it’s good to get the first one out of the way.”
Yarbrough indeed had a key role, pitching four solid innings between opener Jalen Beeks and the bullpen brigade of Ryan Thompson, Brooks Raley and Jason Adam. He had last won on Sept. 24, 2021, with 14 appearances (eight starts) in between.
“(Yarbrough) has pitched really well here as of late,” Cash said. “He probably deserves a little bit better in the win-loss column, but he’s contributing in a big way.”
And after messing up his first attempt at fielding a bunt in a key fourth-inning sequence, he knew enough to stay out of the way on the next bunt so catcher Francisco Mejia could make an aggressive play to get the lead runner, Miguel Andujar, at third.
“I think that was the only play I could have made,” said Mejia, via team interpreter Manny Navarro.
Then Yarbrough redeemed himself, somewhat, by grabbing Aaron Hicks’ bases-loaded comebacker and starting an inning-ending pitcher-to-catcher-to-first base double play.
“Really impressive because the game could have gone sideways pretty quick right there,” Cash said of the defensive plays. “(Yarbrough) prides himself on being such a good athlete on the mound. I think he doesn’t really look that way on the mound. He made a really nice recovery play on the comebacker for the 1-2-3 double play.”
Yarbrough said he has had to adjust his standards.
“I’ve had two (errors) this year, and I’ve definitely heard about it,” he said. “Let’s just say that I definitely get a lot of smack talk about it. Which is very well deserved. It kind of keeps everything light throughout the year, a lot of teammates. So we try to pride ourselves on being good athletes, and I just haven’t really seem to show it these last couple times.”
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The 1-0 lead, which the Rays got when David Peralta led off the fourth inning with a drive to centerfield that Aaron Hicks brutally misplayed and Isaac Paredes followed with an RBI single, was tested again in the eighth.
Thompson, after working a quick seventh inning, allowed a leadoff single to Gleyber Torres. Cash had Adam warming, but left Thompson in to face Aaron Judge, with most of the crowd of 42,192 chanting “MVP, MVP.”
Thompson got ahead 0-2, threw a ball, then got Judge to ground into a double play. “Thompson’s as good as suited to get a ball on the ground as any reliever we have down there,” Cash said. “A lot of confidence with Thompson in that situation.”
Raley finished the eighth. The Rays got some much needed cushion in their ninth, taking advantage of two walks and a hit batter to score three, with Jose Siri and Yandy Diaz driving in what Cash called “crucial” add-on runs. And Adam worked the ninth, completing the shutout at Yankee Stadium, just the fourth this season by a visiting team.
The Rays are immersed in a six-team battle for the three AL wild-card spots, as they improved to 61-53 and moved into a tie with Toronto at the top, pending Seattle’s late result. Monday was the Rays’ third straight win and seventh in 11 games after a 3-8 start after the All-Star break.
“This is a fun race we’ve got going,” Thompson said. “And I see us ending up on top of that.”
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