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Romo, Yarbrough pitch Rays to 6th straight win

Veteran reliever to start 2nd consecutive game in series finale
Special to MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- For starters, Sergio Romo was just fine. And until the end, the Rays had their way with the Angels, prevailing 5-3, to extend their winning streak to six games on Saturday night.

Tampa Bay once again flexed its muscles, as Daniel Robertson slugged a second-inning grand slam, the Rays' seventh home run in the last three contests. Tampa Bay climbed to .500 (22-22) for the first time since it was 1-1, and moved into third place in the AL East.

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ANAHEIM -- For starters, Sergio Romo was just fine. And until the end, the Rays had their way with the Angels, prevailing 5-3, to extend their winning streak to six games on Saturday night.

Tampa Bay once again flexed its muscles, as Daniel Robertson slugged a second-inning grand slam, the Rays' seventh home run in the last three contests. Tampa Bay climbed to .500 (22-22) for the first time since it was 1-1, and moved into third place in the AL East.

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"It's impressive in what they have done. And it's the guys in the dugout,'' said manager Kevin Cash, noting that the Rays started the year 1-8 and 3-12.

Romo, after 588 career relief appearances, started his first game in the Majors. According to STATS, only three players have had more career relief appearances before their first start -- Troy Percival (638), Todd Jones (632) and Chuck McElroy (603).

Following a pristine first inning in which Romo struck out the side, Cash summoned Ryan Yarbrough.

"Once we got the lead we wanted to get, [take Romo] out and hand the ball to Yarbrough,'' Cash said. "As soon as [Robertson] hit that home run, we were on the phone.''

Cash made another call after the game: Romo will start again on Sunday when he faces Shohei Ohtani in the matinee finale of this four-game series in which the Rays have already clinched.

"It did go really, really well,'' Cash said of the experiment of deploying Romo early in the contest. "He opened the game with a slider just like he was pitching the eighth or ninth inning. So, we're going back to Sergio because it worked so well.''

Romo is even getting the benefits associated with a starter. He was sent home early after punching out to prepare for Sunday's start.

"Sergio is pumped,'' Cash said. "He's treated himself as a starter. He's left to get his rest and throw his one or two innings.''

Yarbrough provided 6 1/3 solid innings, touched for a run on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts. The left-hander then handed the baton to Chaz Roe for two outs.

Video: TB@LAA: Yarbrough tosses 6 1/3 to earn win vs. Halos

"It was kind of a nice feeling where you just get ready and go out there,'' Yarbrough said. "You don't overthink things by having so much time out there. It was a really cool experience. The main goal today was really being aggressive and getting that first pitch strike and it worked for me to get deeper in games.''

Ryne Stanek wasn't as sharp, as Mike Trout burned him for a two-run homer, with Alex Colome securing the final three outs for his 10th save.

Video: TB@LAA: Colome records the save in the 5-3 win

That was once a role reserved for Romo. But his work came in the front end of the game.

"I was really impressed with Sergio in the way he handled everything,'' Cash said. "He may not admit to it, but it is totally different than anything he has been accustomed to and he adjusted to it and threw strikes."

Now the rest of the baseball world gets used to the Rays' unconventional ways. After 11 seasons without a start, Romo will have them on consecutive days less than 24 hours apart.

"I'm sure it will be talked about,'' Cash said. "Hopefully it works."

The Angels are charged up for a win before the Rays leave town. If they're going to do it, they'll have to overcome Tampa Bay's innovative thinking.

"It's a little odd,'' Trout said, "But that's what they are doing."

Andrew Heaney (2-3) went six innings, allowing four runs (all unearned), three hits and five walks. He struck out seven as he lost for the second time in three outings.

Heaney was coming off his best performance of the season. But he was ambushed by a patient Rays hitting approach and some shaky defense which produced a four-run second inning.

Robertson's first career grand slam was the key, but the Angels helped the Rays' cause. Heaney walked Johnny Field and Jesus Sucre, and in between the free passes was a throwing error by first baseman Jefry Marte.

That set the stage for Robertson, and he didn't disappoint when offered an 83-mph changeup. Robertson put the blast near the rock pile in left-center for an early 4-0 lead.

Video: TB@LAA: Robertson launches a grand slam to left

It was special for Robertson, who was raised in nearby Upland, Calif., rooted for the Angels growing up and was able to rattle off the names of the 2002 World Series title team in rapid fashion.

"I've never hit a grand slam, and to do it in a ballpark where I grew up watching games in front of family and friends was pretty incredible," he said. "I was actually laughing around the bases, it was too good to be true almost. You can't make this stuff up. It is crazy.'' 

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Slowly but surely: C.J. Cron proved his baseball IQ in the seventh inning, and it helped the Rays plate a run. With the bases loaded, Wilson Ramos hit a one-out grounder to shortstop Andrelton Simmons for what appeared to be a routine, inning-ending double play. But en route to third base, Cron slowed down briefly to shield Simmons from the ball. That split-second of heads up baserunning might have been the difference when Ramos just beat Ian Kinsler's relay to first -- he was originally ruled out -- allowing Robertson to score.

SOUND SMART
Before Romo, 35, toed the rubber, the Rays had gone 603 consecutive games in which their starter was under the age of 30.

HE SAID IT
"It's a testimony to our team and the group we have. We just show up every day and we are ready to roll. To get back square to .500 is awesome for us and it's good starting point for us to build off of. But we are not done." -- Robertson, on the Rays shaking off their rough start to reach .500

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Rays went ahead 5-0 in the seventh, when scratching across a run on Ramos' bases-loaded fielder's choice. Initially, the play was ruled an out on the field, giving the Angels what would have been an inning-ending double play. After review, Ramos was ruled safe, giving him his 22nd RBI of the year.

Video: TB@LAA: Robertson scores after call overturned

UP NEXT
Romo goes for his second start in as many games with the Rays sticking to their unconventional method of beginning contests with a reliever. Romo's first career start on Saturday produced three strikeouts in his only inning of work. After Romo, the Rays could turn to lefty Anthony Banda, or right-handers Matt Andriese or Austin Pruitt. Romo faces Ohtani, with first pitch at 4:07 p.m. ET.

Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays, Sergio Romo, Ryan Yarbrough