Opening a four game series in Cleveland, the Rays looked to get off on the right foot and take back their lead in the AL East against a perennial postseason team that has struggled offensively this year.
Yarbs back on the hill. https://t.co/hzIYTMjcx7 #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/CDhr0DbSyS— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 23, 2019
Ryan Yarbrough was recalled from Durham this afternoon and was tabbed as the starting pitcher for the Rays, facing off against Adam Plutko and the Cleveland Indians.
Plutko struggled early and often, and in the first inning, allowed a solo home run to Tommy Pham, Pham’s seventh homer on the season. Two batters later, Avisail Garcia hit a solo home run. In the next inning, Willy Adames hit a solo home run. After three solo home runs, the Rays were up on the Indians 3-0.
We've played two innings.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 23, 2019
We've hit three homers. #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/iC1iwdtCLa
Plutko put his outing into cruise control after allowing his third run, and cruise control for him meant allowing a base runner in each inning without allowing any additional runs. Plutko, however, would disengage that cruise control in the sixth inning and return to allowing costly runs to be scored against him.
In the top of the sixth, Kevin Kiermaier found himself in a golden position to blow this game wide open. Willy Adames doubled after Brandon Lowe singled to put two runners on and in scoring position for Kiermaier, and Kiermaier shot a ball into left field between the colliding bodies of Oscar Mercado and Leonys Martin, rounding the bases while the fielders were down for a three run inside-the-park home run.
With four home runs in the books for the Rays, the only thing left to do was to turn that into a meme.
Andrew Velazquez recorded his first hit on the season after Kiermaier’s home run, hitting a double to deep center field and over the head of Leonys Martin. Tommy Pham drove in Velazquez with a single, extending the Rays’ lead to 7-2.
Ryan Yarbrough was terrific in his first appearance back with the Rays since his demotion to AAA in April. Yarbrough was sharp, quick and efficient through his first five innings, throwing only 62 pitches. Things got dicey in the sixth inning, however, as Yarbrough loaded the bases and allowed a two-RBI hit to Jordan Luplow, ending Yarbrough’s shutout.
Yarbrough struck out four in seven and one-third innings of work, walking only one batter and allowing two runs on four hits. 67 of Yarbrough’s 99 pitches were for strikes, and two of Yarbrough’s strikeouts were against former Rays first baseman Jake Bauers.
After Yarbrough recorded the first out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Ryne Stanek was summoned upon to close out the inning, and Stanek made quick work of the Indians’ hitters, ending the eighth inning after 11 pitches.
Emilio Pagan came out of the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning, and although this was not a save opportunity, Pagan was relied upon to close this game out with no additional runs on the board. Although Pagan walked the leadoff batter and then an additional one-out walk, Pagan closed the door and the Rays beat the Indians, 7-2.
Ryan Yarbrough’s very strong outing, in combination with a great showing of power from the Rays’ offense, led to a quality road win against the Indians to open the four-game series. The second game of the series takes place tomorrow at Progressive Field at 7:10 pm.