Great shot of Nelson Cruz crossing the plate after he hit his second homer of the night on Tuesday. (Photo Credit: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays continued to dominate the Orioles on Tuesday, scoring three in the fourth, five in the fifth, and two in the sixth en route to a 10-0 victory over Baltimore.

At 73-47 on the season, the Rays enter play a season-high-tying 26-games over .500, and five games up on the Red Sox and Yankees in the division with 42 games left to play.

Drew Rasmussen made his second start of the season with Ryan Yarbrough on the COVID-19 IL. After allowing one run across four innings in Boston, Rasmussen tossed four scoreless frames, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out three. Even though there were several hard-hit outs, not a single Baltimore runner advanced past first against the right-hander. He threw 38 of 56 pitches for strikes (68% strike rate).

Meanwhile, the Rays had fits against John Means over the first three innings, although they forced the left-hander to throw 66 pitches. And while Means held Tampa Bay scoreless in those innings, they were able to break through in the bottom of the fourth … and it all started with a leadoff error.

Wander Franco reached on the error by Jorge Mateo at short before Yandy Díaz flew out to deep center. The speedy Franco, however, was able to advance to second. A batter later, Manuel Margot doubled to the right-center gap, easily scoring Franco for all the runs they would need on Tuesday. Yet an out later, Gator Mike Zunino lined a two-out homer to left, putting the Rays up by three. Zunino is now in the midst of a five-game home run streak and has 26 homers on the season — a career-high.

An inning later, Kevin Kiermaier lined a single up the middle then moved into third on Randy Arozarena’s base hit to center, making him 3-for-3 on the night and 20-for-40 against Baltimore. Previously mired in a slump, Nelson Cruz hit a towering three-run homer to left, his first of two homers on the night.

They weren’t done scoring in the frame.

Franco chased Means on a single to right; enter Marcos Diplan. After two fielder’s choice groundouts, Manuel Margot moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Brandon Lowe plated Margot on a double to right before second baseman Ramon Urias dropped a “Gator” Mike infield pop-up, scoring Lowe to cap the inning.

The hit parade continued in the sixth inning after Arozarena collected his fourth hit — an infield single with one out — and Cruz blasted a moonshot that caromed off the facing of the second deck in left, giving Tampa Bay double digits for the 12th time this season.

Adam Conley took over for Rasmussen and pitched a perfect fifth, preserving the shutout.

Chris Ellis followed with four scoreless frames, scattering three hits and a walk while striking out seven on 62 pitches (45 strikes, 73% strike rate, 16 whiffs, 26% SwStr%). He earned his first Major League win — not bad for a hurler making his second-ever big-league performance.

It was the ninth Tampa Bay shutout this season.

The New What Next

Ryan Yarbrough (6-4, 4.76 ERA) will come off the COVID-19 IL to pitch on Wednesday either as a bulk pitcher or as a starter opposite. He’ll pitch opposite of RHP Spenser Watkins (2-4, 5.25 ERA).

Ryan Yarbrough got the start against the Orioles on Friday and allowed five runs on nine hits while striking out four across five innings. Yarbrough again kept his walks in check, yet the excellent control he has displayed all season hasn’t been enough of late. And while a .414 BABIP and a few weakly hit balls that resulted in extra bases speak to some bad luck on behalf of the left-hander, Yarbough allowed five hard hits, good for a 26.3% barrel rate — his highest of the season. He has allowed five runs or more in three of his last four starts and owns a 5.51 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP across six starts since the start of July.

Spenser Watkins allowed six runs on seven hits and three walks with only one strikeout across four innings on Friday versus Boston. After a decent first inning, Watkins surrendered four runs in the second and one more in the third and fourth each. Watkins’ performance is trending in the wrong direction — he’s allowed four or more runs in each of his last four turns. He now has a 5.25 ERA and a 4.96 FIP, with a 1.44 WHIP, and a 1.64 K/BB in 36 innings. Watkins is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (2-3, 2B, RBI), Ji-Man Choi (1-2, BB), Nelson Cruz (2-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Manuel Margot (2-3, 2B), Francisco Mejia (1-1), Brett Phillips (1-2, 2B, RBI)

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

Rays 8/18/21 Starting Lineup

  1. B. Lowe 2B
  2. Franco SS
  3. Cruz DH
  4. Meadows LF
  5. Arozarena RF
  6. Choi 1B
  7. Wendle 3B
  8. Mejia C
  9. Kiermaier CF
  10. Yarbrough LHP

Noteworthiness

— Chris Archer struck out six across 4.2 innings in his fifth rehab start with the Durham Bulls. He threw 71 pitches (45 strikes, 63% strike rate) and could rejoin the Rays for his next outing.

— Nick Anderson also appeared in the above-mentioned game, slashing 1 IP/2 H/2 R/1 ER/1 K on 14 pitches (13 strikes, 93% strike rate).

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