If you look closely, you can see Francisco Mejía rounding third en route to home after he hit a two-run homer. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

Another day, another come-from-behind win for the Rays, as Tampa Bay defeated Boston 9-5 on Saturday, in a contest that had all the energy and feel of October baseball. It was their 31st comeback victory of the season, which is second in all of baseball.

At 63-42 on the season, the Rays enter play 21-games above .500 and with sole possession of first place in the division by a half-game. For the first time since August 24, 2013, they are in first place past the 100-game mark.

Looking backward first, Ryan Yarbrough was shaky on Saturday, surrendering five runs on four hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out four. Two-run homers by Xander Bogaerts (in the first inning) and Bobby Dalbec (in the fifth) accounted for the bulk of the damage off Yarbrough and he hadn’t served up multiple homers in a start since June 3. Yet, taking his last start into consideration, the soft-contact specialist has allowed a steady rain of homers in ’21 — his 1.42 HR/9 is by far the worst of his career. He was able to settle down after the first inning to retire 11 straight batters, giving the Rays a chance to take the lead in the fourth, yet he allowed the game-tying runs in the next frame. Yarbrough maintains a 4.58 ERA and a 4.30 FIP, with a 1.18 WHIP, and a 4.48 K/BB through 114 innings on the season.

Andrew Kittredge followed Yarbrough in the sixth and loaded the bases with one out. He also fell behind Christian Vazquez 3-0, although Kittredge worked his way back to strike out Boston’s backstop on a 96 mph fastball. He then got Dalbec swinging on a 95 mph fastball after a six-pitch at-bat, keeping the game tied at five.

Boston also left the bases full in the seventh, yet the eventual scoreless frame came at a cost to the Rays. Jeffrey Springs, who got the nod in the seventh, suffered a right knee sprain on Rafael Devers’ bunt base hit with a runner on. He was able to walk off the field without needing help, yet Springs is “highly likely” to land on the Injured List according to Rays’ skipper Kevin Cash.

Matt Wisler entered for Springs and got J.D. Martinez to ground weakly to first, which moved the runners up 90 feet. With first base open, Xander Bogaerts was walked intentionally after getting ahead of the count 3-0. Former Ray Hunter Renfroe worked the count to 3-1 before he struck out, ending the threat in heart palpitating fashion. Wisler followed with a perfect eighth.

Offensively, Ji-Man Choi hammered a two-run home run to right field, which cut the Rays’ deficit to a run, in the bottom of the first inning. The long ball followed Brandon Lowe’s lead-off hustle double.

Tampa Bay evened the score in the third thanks to a pair of Boston errors. Lowe grounded into the shift with one out, yet he ultimately reached on the miscue by Jonathan Arauz. Choi followed with a single to right, moving Lowe into third. Nelson Cruz bounced to second, but Arauz bobbled it for another error, tying the game at three.

An inning later, Joey Wendle looped a two-strike single to right-center, before Francisco Mejía crushed a 1-2 fastball to right for a two-run homer two batters later. It was Mejia’s fifth of the season.

The Rays took the lead for the second and final time in the sixth inning after Wendle earned a one-out walk, and Wander Franco lined a triple down the right-field line for the go-ahead lead.

Tampa Bay added some breathing room in the eighth after Austin Meadows doubled off Adam Ottavino and Randy Arozarena was hit by a pitch. With one out, Franco singled to right to put the Rays up by a pair.

Mejía capped the scoring after Austin Davis entered, and wild-pitched the runners to second and third, and the Rays’ catcher singled to center for a 9-5 advantage.

The New What Next

Shane McClanahan (4-4, 3.93 ERA) will get the start Sunday night, pitching opposite of Nick Pivetta (8-4, 4.51 ERA).

Shane McClanahan allowed three runs on nine hits and three walks over six innings against the Yankees on Tuesday. He struck out six. The rookie wasn’t especially sharp, tossing 60 of 89 pitches for strikes (67% strike rate), yet he pitched well enough to earn his third quality start of the season — all of which have come in his last six starts. And while he found his way into a few jams, especially in the first three frames, he also found his way out of them, coaxing a pair of double plays, while also getting a little help from Manuel Margot, who made an outstanding sliding catch in right to end the sixth inning. McClanahan boasts a solid 3.34 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP, and a 3.17 K/BB across 32.1 innings over that six-game stretch.

Nick Pivetta allowed four runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three across 4.2 innings against Toronto on Monday. The right-hander allowed four runs or more for the fourth time in his last five starts, and Monday was the third time in that span he’s failed to complete five frames. Pivetta’s inconsistency has led to a 4.51 ERA and a 4.31 FIP, with a 1.34 WHIP, and 2.5 K/BB through 107.2 innings this season. Even so, he is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two shutout starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchup: Randy Arozarena (1-4, BB)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.

Rays 8/1/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Lowe 2B
  2. Meadows LF
  3. Cruz DH
  4. Choi 1B
  5. Díaz 3B
  6. Franco SS
  7. Margot RF
  8. Kiermaier CF
  9. Zunino C
  10. McClanahan LHP

Noteworthiness

— The Rays have won four consecutive games against the Red Sox after dropping the first four meetings and look to sweep the three-game set tonight.

— The Rays placed LHP Jeffrey Springs on the 10-day Injured List with a right knee sprain and recalled RHP DJ Johnson from the Durham Bulls.

An MRI on Springs’ knee revealed the best of all possibilities given the circumstances, and he is confident he can return in two-to-four weeks.

— Collin McHugh (arm fatigue) threw a bullpen session this afternoon and said he felt great afterward. “Today was a good day.”

McHugh told Steve Carney (St. Pete Nine) he hopes this will be a quick return to action, but says there are other aspects he’s not in control of that will determine that. He said he’ll be on the next road trip (BAL, BOS, MIN), but isn’t sure when/if he’ll be active.

— Chris Archer is expected to get stretched out to 75 – 90 pitches or five innings, whichever comes first, with Durham today.

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