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Happy Homecomings: Ex-Mariners play key roles in series sweep

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“Beast” Yarbrough leads the way in series finale

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

SEATTLE, WA - For an absolutely lovely city, Seattle has been a place of horrors for the Rays in recent years. 9 straight games lost, with the last win in Seattle before this series being in 2015. However, maybe the missing ingredient was not enough former Mariners to take down their old team.

All the former M’s had moments of greatness in this series.

Emilio Pagan, who came up through the Mariners system and debuted with them in 2017, closed out all three games in T-Mobile Park, earning his 10th, 11th, and 12th saves of the season. Pagan has been quite good all year, with a 36% K rate to a paltry 6.4% BB rate, and has settled into his high leverage role.

Guillermo Heredia had just one game this series, but immediately found a way to make an impact, both of the metaphorical and literal kind.

Mike Zunino came through time and time again with his stellar defense and top notch framing. I asked Zunino after Sunday’s game his approach to framing and doing his part to secure his pitchers strikes: “I don’t want to take balls out of the zone. Not trying to do too much. I just want balls around there to have that raised right hand”.

He went on to compliment both home plate umpires he caught in front of, “When you know guys are pretty consistent with their zone, you can sort of settle in. You know which pitches to go after, and which pitches to not go after”

For example, Zunino secured a close strike three call on a curveball right on the black with a 3-2 count to Dan Vogelbach. “...you try not to take any pitches off because you don’t know which one’s gonna help decide the game”.

Zunino also showed off the arm, nailing a perfect throw to catch the incredibly speedy Dee Gordon (82nd percentile in Sprint Speed)

Ryan Yarbrough after the game, “I can’t credit Zunino enough today for how well he called the game. Especially for him coming home like this. I’m sure he was really excited about it, and I was happy to have him behind the plate”.

Of course, no former Mariner came up larger than Ryan Yarbrough. A lot will be made about the tough call of Cash pulling Yarby with 1 out to go to notch the complete game shutout, but that decision should not overshadow what was an absolutely sterling performance.

Yarbrough has been pitching incredibly well as of late. Kyle Snyder after the game when asked to compare this to the near combined perfect game in Baltimore, “I would say this one was better”.

When asked by a reporter after the game if there was any point during the game he felt like a “beast”, Yarbrough laughed, “I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before. That’s pretty cool!”

“Especially for Cash to leave me in there and have a lot of trust, especially in a 1-0 ballgame, I was really excited about that”.

I was able to ask Yarbrough about the big matchup against longtime DRaysBay fan favorite Dan Vogelbach.

“Obviously he’s a great hitter and he knows the strike zone really well, and [he’s] selective. You don’t want to throw him anything over the plate where he can use his power, especially in a one run ballgame, and tie it up. Really tried to stay away with him. Threw him some slow breakers, got behind a little bit, so used some cutters to get back into the count.”

Yarbrough continued, “I wasn’t going to give in to him 3-2. Had confidence in the breaking ball, and obviously it was right where I needed it to be.”

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners
The face of many Mariners having to face Ryan Yarbrough
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Yarbrough was amazing in his 99 pitches. He kept calm, kept cool, and even after the game seemed loose despite clearly being eager to have had the chance to finish off the game.

“Obviously a little angry, but at the same time, I think he’d want me to be. I would think he would want me to finish it. I don’t think I have any ill will about it or anything. Obviously Emilio came in and did a great job. We won the ballgame and got a series sweep against a team that beat us up a bit last year. We are really excited about that, honestly, and to have a happy flight and go to San Diego”.

For the Rays, both those returning to Seattle and those making their first visit, there will be many fond memories of the Emerald City.