Ryan Yarbrough returned to form behind a starter, while the Rays offense put up six combined runs across two innings, as Tampa Bay defeated the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, 6-1.
At 31-17 on the season, the Rays are again 14 games over .500 and have a four-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East with 12 games left to play. Tampa Bay has a magic number of four to clinch a playoff spot, and eight to win the Division.
Ryan Yarbrough took over with one out in the second and quickly went to work against the Nationals, working around a Carter Kieboom single and striking out two to get out of the frame unscathed. Even though Yarbrough went just 2-2/3 innings against the Nationals in his last start, the lefty posted 5-2/3 frames of one-run ball on this night, allowing five hits, and hitting a batter while striking out five. He threw 52 of 86 pitches for strikes (60% strike rate, 17% SwStr%). Yarbrough allowed just four hard-hit balls and kept the Nationals off-balance throughout the night.
Yarbrough’s biggest frame came in the fifth inning. After he allowed back-to-back hits with just a 2-0 lead, Victor Robles laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners up to second and third. But Adam Eaton grounded to third with the infield in, and Trea Turner popped to first to end the threat.
Washington was able to get run off Yarbrough in the sixth inning when Juan Soto doubled then came around to score on a pair of groundouts. Even so, Yarbrough held the Nationals to 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Following the game, Yarbrough told Fox Sports Sun that he’s feeling more comfortable with his “rhythm and timing” on the mound.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay took the lead for good in the second inning.
With Ji-Man Choi (hamstring strain) on the Injured List, Nate Lowe has been getting regular playing time. Clearly, the extra reps have made him more comfortable in the batter’s box, as Lowe hit a towering one-out homer to right off starter Aníbal Sánchez. It was his third home run of the season.
Then with two down, Kevin Kiermaier walked, was balked to second, and scored on catcher Kevan Smith’s line-drive base hit to left-center for a 2-0 lead.
They were able to extend their lead in the fifth inning which happened to be the same frame they knocked out a very frustrated Sánchez, whom the ran over all night. It all started when Austin Meadows singled up the middle and swiped second. Next, Mike Brosseau was hit by a pitch, and Yoshi Tsutsugo walked — loading the bases. Manuel Margot followed with a grounder between first and second for an RBI infield hit — putting the Rays up by three and chasing Sánchez. Nate Lowe came through again, earning his second RBI of the night on a free pass against left-hander Ben Braymer, which forced home a run.
Finally, after Willy Adames went down swinging for the second out of the inning, Kiermaier punched a single through the left side, scoring a pair and pushing the lead to six.
Aaron Loup worked a perfect eighth in relief of Yarbrough before Ryan Sherriff made things interesting in the ninth. Sherriff allowed a pair of singles and a walk with one out and had to be pulled in favor of Nick Anderson. The righty punched out Luis Garcia on three pitches and then got pinch-hitter, Yadiel Hernandez, on four pitches. For Anderson, it was his team-leading fifth save.
Tampa Bay will wrap up the penultimate homestand, and the short two-game set against the Nationals, on Wednesday. Pete Fairbanks (4-3, 3.00 ERA) will open and will be followed by Josh Fleming (3-0, 4.12 ERA). They’ll be opposed by Austin Voth (0-5, 7.99 ERA).
Pete Fairbanks allowed an earned run on a hit and a walk over two-thirds of an inning on Sunday against the Red Sox. Fairbanks entered the game with a man on in the fifth inning, yet he allowed an RBI double to Rafael Devers and a run-scoring groundout to J.D. Martinez. Only the latter run went on Fairbanks’ line, but it was enough to saddle him with the loss. The right-hander has uncharacteristically allowed a pair of earned runs over his last three appearances.
Josh Fleming allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five across 4-1/3 innings on Thursday against Boston. The left-hander allowed a pair of home runs that sunk his battleship and accounted for all three of his earned runs. Even though he has yet to take a loss, Fleming has allowed seven earned runs on 13 hits across his last 9-1/3 innings of work (spanning two starts).
Austin Voth allowed three runs on two hits and two walks across 4-1/3 innings against Atlanta on Thursday. He struck out four. Things were looking good for Voth in the early parts of Thursday’s outing as the right-hander retired the first nine batters he faced, while the Nats staked him to a 5-0 lead. Unfortunately, Voth lost his command in the fourth when he walked two and allowed a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman. He struck out Nick Markakis to start the fifth inning but was pulled a batter later after he hit Tyler Flowers. The 28-year-old was charged with one more run when Ronald Acuna hit a two-run homer off reliever Wander Suero. The mainly three-pitch pitcher relies primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball and a 79 mph curveball with slight glove-side movement, while also mixing in an 87 mph cutter which has some natural sink.
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below..
Rays 9/16/20 Starting Lineup
- Meadows DH
- B Lowe 2B
- Arozarena LF
- N Lowe 1B
- Margot RF
- Wendle 3B
- Adames SS
- Kiermaier CF
— Mike Brosseau, Kevin Kiermaier, Nate Lowe, and Manuel Margot each had two hits on Tuesday. Brosseau, Kiermaier, Lowe, and Meadows all had stolen bases.