Ryan Yarbrough has been looking for more consistency since returning from the injured list on Sept. 8, and the left-hander found it on Sunday in the Rays’ 2-1 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards.
“We played a really good series here. We just went a little quiet today, but there are plenty of positives to pull, and I think Yarbrough is at the top of the list with that performance,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “It was a pretty dominating performance.”
The day began with Yarbrough running into some bad luck. Hanser Alberto led off the first inning with a bunt single. That was followed by an Austin Hays single that had an exit velocity of 84.3 mph. After getting Ryan Mountcastle to ground out sharply to Willy Adames, Yarbrough gave up a two-run single to Renato Núñez that barely left the infield and had an exit velo of 56.2 mph.
Once Yarbrough got out of the first, he settled in nicely. Yarbrough allowed just two runs over seven-plus innings and struck out a season-high eight O’s batters in the loss. After giving up three hits in the opening frame, Yarbrough allowed just two over his last six-plus innings.
“I just kind of take that first inning with a grain of salt, especially because there was a lot of soft contact finding holes, but after that I was trying to find my groove,” Yarbrough said. “Definitely a good outing to build off. Everything was kind of where I need it to be, staying really aggressive and keeping guys off balance.”
The changeup and cutter combination was especially sharp for Yarbrough. He threw 35 changeups and recorded nine whiffs on the pitch. Yarbrough threw the cutter 27 times, and O’s hitters had an average exit velocity of just 70.7 on the pitch. Overall, Yarbrough recorded 21 swings-and-misses on Sunday.
“He was outstanding,” Cash said. “The frustration is that we spoiled a really, really tremendous pitching performance from Yarbs. It was good to see him get that deep in a ballgame, be that efficient. His stuff, from the side, looked really, really good. How he got through the lineup over and over, it was pretty telling that he was featuring a lot of quality stuff.”
Despite Yarbrough’s impressive performance, the Rays’ offense was unable to get anything going against Baltimore's pitching staff, and particularly against starter John Means. The Rays, who opted to give regulars Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Lowe a day off, struck out 12 times in 5 2/3 innings against Means. As a team, Tampa Bay struck out 16 times on Sunday.
The lone offensive bright spot was Willy Adames, who hit his second home run of the series with a solo blast in the fourth off Means.
“I’ve been feeling a little bit better [at the plate],” Adames said. “Still a lot of work to do, but I feel good that it’s getting better. I believe I’ll be good in New York, and hopefully I can help the team a little bit more and we can win some games there.”
Moving into the postseason, Yarbrough’s role will be a key one for the Rays. Though the rotation for the Wild Card Series will likely be Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay will rely on Yarbrough to be the key fourth piece if the club is able to advance deeper into the postseason.
“We’re gonna go as they go,” Cash said. “I think whoever has the ball that day recognizes that we feed off them and we’re built around them. And when their talents come out, we’re pretty special. We can do some good things. But it’s certainly led by anybody that’s starting those games.”