The Rays started the second half on a positive note when they took two of three from Atlanta on the road over the weekend. Coming into tonight’s contest against the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays were just a half of a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
Ryan Yarbrough made a traditional start for the Rays, opposite 29 year old rookie Spenser Watkins, who spent six years in the minors with the Detroit Tigers before signing a minor league deal with Baltimore in February of this year.
Yarbrough’s outing started off with an unlucky first, as three hits netted two runs for the Orioles. After that, Yarbrough threw up zeros for the next four frames, leaving the door open for a Rays comeback.
But Watkins turned in a stellar performance, pitching five scoreless innings, mixing sliders and curveballs with a low 90’s four seam fastball with natural cutting action. He was tough to square up, and he scattered just four baserunners throughout his five frames.
The Rays did get on the board in the bottom of the sixth, but by that time the wheels had fallen off, as Yarbrough, who went back out for the sixth, allowed four more runs to score. In all, Yarbrough allowed a total of six runs in his 5.2 innings of work.
OFF THE WALL!— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) July 20, 2021
Randy Arozarena drives it deep and scores Austin Meadows for the @RaysBaseball to get on the board! #RaysUp
Bally Sports Sun
Bally Sports App pic.twitter.com/8sTIudmiqU
While it was a quiet night offensively for the Rays, it was encouraging to see Randy Arozarena swing the bat well tonight. In addition to driving in the lone run with a double off the centerfield wall, Arozarena also laced a single in the fourth innings—a 109.9 mph line drive into left center.
Other pitchers who saw action tonight for the Rays were slider specialist Matt Wisler who was first out of the bullpen to finish the sixth, followed by Diego Castillo for the seventh, and Drew Rasmussen in the eighth and ninth.
Two things of note, All-star catcher Mike Zunino and infielder Yandy Diaz departed from the game early, the former with hip flexor soreness and the latter with neck spasms. Francisco Mejia and Vidal Brujan came in to replace Zunino and Diaz in the lineup.
So the Rays did not climb back into first place tonight. With this loss and Red Sox simultaneously beating the Toronto Blue Jays handily, the Rays fall back to one and a half games behind the division leaders.
Tomorrow the Rays hope to get themselves back into the win column as they hand the ball to rookie Shane McClanahan against fellow southpaw John Means, who has put together a great season thus far, pitching to a 2.25 ERA in 71.0 innings of work.