ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was roughed up by the Nationals last Tuesday night in the nation’s capital when he allowed six hits and four runs in 2 ⅔ innings to take the loss in a 5-3 defeat.
The 28-year-old lefty turned the tables at Tropicana Field this Tuesday night. He followed opener John Curtiss and went 5 ⅔ innings and allowed one run in the Rays’ 6-1 win over the Nationals.
Yarbrough, who appeared in relief for the first time after 17 straight starts dating to last season, picked up his first win since last August 11 at Seattle to snap a 16-game winless drought.
“Still fine tuning a couple of things,” said Yarbrough, who has picked up 23 of his 28 career wins in relief and is 1-3 this season. “I feel like I am still a tad off with a few things. I got the breaking balls going and kept guys off balance. It was a little redemption facing them again and definitely something to build off of.”
The Rays opened the scoring with two runs in the second. Nate Lowe, who is 7-for-17 with three homers since an 0-for-11 start to the season, led off with a 416-foot home run to right. Kevan Smith delivered a two-out single to score Kevin Kiermaier.
That would be all the Rays needed on a night when they clinched a winning record and reduced their magic number for clinching a postseason berth to four.
“I thought we played a good ballgame, a pretty clean game and I am very encouraged by that,” said manager Kevin Cash, whose team had a season-high five stolen bases.
The Rays broke it open with a four-run fifth that featured a pair of walks, a hit batter, a stolen base, an infield single and a balk that wasn’t a balk. (With runners on first and second, Washington’s Anibel Sanchez balked on a full-count pitch to Yoshi Tsutsugo. Since it was ball four, the Rays elected to take the walk and load the bases.)
The hardest hit ball in the inning was by a player who struck out: Willy Adames hooking a bid for a grand slam a few feet wide of the left-field foul pole.
After Adames fanned, the next batter, Kevin Kiermaier delivered the back-breaking hit. His two-run single scored Tsutsugo and Manuel Margot to make it 6-0.
“A lot of guys did some good things for us to keep that line moving,” said Cash, of an inning in which his Rays batted around.
With the score still 2-0, Yarbrough allowed singles to Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia leading off the fifth. After Victor Robles sacrificed, he retired Adam Eaton on a grounder and Trea Turner on a popup. The Rays then scored four times in their half of the inning.
“I think our offense really got going after what Yarbs did to get through the (fifth) inning,” said Cash. “That was a big moment and I was really happy with Yarbs and how he contributed to us winning.”
The Rays conclude their two-game series against Washington on Wednesday afternoon at 1:10. Pete Fairbanks will get the start.