Wander Franco has now reached base safely in 31 consecutive games and has driven in 23 runs over that stretch. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays continue to rush past the other teams in the division, winning their ninth consecutive game, 8-5 over Boston, behind an outstanding start by Ryan Yarbrough.

At a palindromic 84-48 on the season, Tampa Bay is now a franchise-best 36 games above .500 and 8.0 games ahead of the Yankees in the division.

Ryan Yarbrough got the start Tuesday and cruised through six solid frames, allowing a pair of runs on four hits, while striking out three on 78 pitches (55 strikes, 71% strike rate, 10% SwStr%). The left-hander found himself in an early jam when Boston took a brief lead in the first inning. With two out, J.D. Martinez doubled to left, before Xander Bogaerts looped an RBI base hit to right. Then in the sixth, Kyle Schwarber unloaded on a 71 mph, 1-2 curveball that hung up over the heart of the plate. Aside from that though, Yarbrough surgically dissected Boston’s depleted lineup, allowing his teammates to go to work.

Bogaerts left the game shortly thereafter due to a positive COVID-19 test. Don’t be a Masshole, kids, get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Randy Arozarena answered Boston’s first-inning run when he drilled a missile to left off Brad Peacock in the second, his 18th homer of the season.

The Rays poured it on an inning later.

Peacock walked Kevin Kiermaier and hit Francisco Mejía (the first of three HBP’s on the night) to start the frame. After Brandon Lowe flew out to the warning track in center, advancing both runners, Nelson Cruz walked to load the bases.

That brought Wander Franco to the plate, and the 20-year-old did not disappoint. Not only did Franco extend his on-base streak to 31 games with a line-drive single to right, but he also drove in a run — his 23rd RBI across the span of his streak. In addition to that, Hunter Renfroe’s throw back in glanced off Bobby Dalbec for an error, which allowed a second runner to score putting the Rays up by a pair.

Peacock’s night was over.

Steven Gonsalves entered in relief and uncorked a wild pitch to score Cruz before Austin Meadows singled to right for his team-high 93rd RBI of the season. After Arozarena was hit by a pitch, and after Joey Wendle flew out to right, Yandy Díaz blooped a double into right that bounced over Renfroe’s head and scored two more runs, capping the rally.

Then with runners on the corners in the sixth inning, Tampa Bay tacked on an insurance run when Mejía sent a sacrifice fly to left center, allowing Díaz to come home and extend the lead to six.

Yet, Boston made things interesting after Yarbrough exited the contest.

Shawn Armstrong worked a scoreless seventh inning, while Dietrich Enns took over in the eighth. Enns allowed a run on Rafael Devers’ single which followed a walk and a Lowe error in the frame. Then in the ninth, Enns walked Jonathan Arauz with one out before Renfroe doubled to left. Five pitches later Schwarber singled to center for an RBI, while JD Martinez hit a base hit to right on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. Each hit scored a run to bring Boston within a perilously close three runs. And while Kevin Cash didn’t want to go with his high-leverage relievers, he reluctantly called upon Andrew Kittredge.

Kittredge entered the contest and struck out pinch-hitter Travis Shaw, which was followed by a whiffy strikeout of Devers, to close out the game and earn the save.

The New What Next

The Rays will go for the throat series win on Wednesday with Drew Rasmussen (1-1, 3.46 ERA) on the mound. He’ll start opposite left-hander Chris Sale (3-0, 2.35 ERA).

Drew Rasmussen allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out one over five innings against the Phillies on Tuesday. The five-inning turn represented a new career-high for Rasmussen, who is slowly ramping up his pitch count. In his first three starts with Tampa Bay, Rasmussen has allowed only two runs across 13 innings although he maintains just a 5.5 K/9. On the season, the right-hander maintains a 3.46 ERA and 3.26 FIP, with a 1.23 WHIP and a 2.52 K/BB across 52.0 innings between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Rasmussen is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three outings (one start) against the Red Sox this season (6.2 innings).

Chris Sale held the Twins to two runs on two hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight across 5.1 innings on Thursday. The left-hander was in command, joining Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax as the only pitcher with three immaculate frames when he struck out the side against the Twins on nine pitches in the third. It was Sale’s third outing since returning from the IL following Tommy John surgery. He’s pitched well with a 2.35 ERA and a 3.75 FIP, with a 1.04 WHIP, 7.00 K/BB over 15.1 innings. Sale has been good in his career against Tampa Bay, going 10-6 with a 2.94 ERA in 20 outings (18 starts). Key Matchups: Nelson Cruz (9-29, 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Yandy Díaz (4-6, 2 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (6-20, HR, 3 RBI, BB)

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

Rays 9/1/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Arozarena RF
  2. Cruz DH
  3. Franco SS
  4. Díaz 1B
  5. Margot CF
  6. Zunino C
  7. Luplow LF
  8. Wendle 3B
  9. Walls 2B
  10. Rasmussen RHP


— The Rays have made their first round of September call-ups, recalling RHP David Robertson and SS Taylor Walls from Triple-A Durham.

Robertson will wear #30, and first base coach Ozzie Timmons will switch to #40.

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