SAN DIEGO -- With Blake Snell, Yonny Chirinos and Tyler Glasnow on the injured list for at least another month, the Rays will rely on other pitchers to provide the bulk of the innings at least a few times a week as they try to clinch their first postseason berth since 2013.
Ryan Yarbrough did his part Sunday, tossing 8 2/3 scoreless innings at Seattle. On Monday, it was Austin Pruitt's turn. And the right-hander pitched well, allowing only one run and striking out four over four innings of relief in the Rays’ 10-4 win over the Padres at Petco Park.
The Rays (70-50) improved to 20 games over .500 for the first time since they were 92-71 at the end of the 2013 season. It marks the fifth season in franchise history that they've reached the mark, with the other four times all leading to postseason appearances.
“I think it’s awesome,” said third baseman Matt Duffy, who went 4-for-4 with three RBIs. “Especially with the stretch of games that we have coming up here, pretty extended stretch, taking care of business is a big deal and to go into that feeling good as a team with a good vibe in the clubhouse, everybody believes that good things are going to happen. That’s certainly a big, big thing.”
Diego Castillo started for Tampa Bay, and despite some shaky defense behind him, the right-hander was effective again in his one inning. In three starts as an opener this season, Castillo hasn’t allowed an earned run.
After Castillo, it was up to Pruitt to pitch the bulk of the innings. Pruitt, who has been up and down between Triple-A Durham this season, has struggled at the big league level, entering Monday’s game with a 5.16 ERA in nine appearances. But the righty's ability to provide length out of the 'pen makes him a necessity for the Rays with their current injury situation.
Pruitt gave up a broken-bat RBI single to Padres starter Joey Lucchesi with the infield drawn in in the second, but he then settled down, needing only 56 pitches in his outing. Pruitt allowed five hits, turning it over to the rest of the Rays' bullpen with a 3-2 lead after five.
“I think he did a good job,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He competed well for us. We tacked on pitches on him, and he hasn’t been built up to that degree yet, but he certainly made big pitches for us and let the defense play. He pitched out of some jams early on but trusted his stuff and made good pitches.”
Relievers Chaz Roe, Oliver Drake and Andrew Kittredge closed out the victory as the Rays' offense separated the game late against the Padres' bullpen, scoring three runs in the seventh and four in the eighth.
Avisail Garcia, who connected on his 17th home run of the season in the first inning, had three hits, Duffy tied a career high with four and Jesus Aguilar recorded two, boosting his average to .387 since joining the Rays.
Even Drake got in on the action, recording his first Major League hit and RBI in his second big league at-bat, beating out an infield single in the eighth.
“I had an at-bat here [at Petco Park] in 2016, that was the last one,” Drake said. “Both of them have come in this park, which is kind of funny.”
In eight games in August, Garcia is hitting .375 (12-for-32) with three home runs and eight RBIs. One of the few players on the roster with World Series experience, Garcia has established himself as a key piece in the middle of the Rays' lineup.
“He’s swinging the bat well, and we need him, especially being a little dinged up here with Tommy [Pham],” Cash said. “To get the two runs early, it’s really nice to do. It just allows you to be versatile in the game when you have that lead.”