Before slipping into a baby costume that was part of rookie dress-up travel day for the late-surging Tampa Bay Rays, Ryan Yarbrough broke a record that had stood since the team’s first season.
Tommy Pham homered twice for the still playoff-hopeful Rays in another win for another sweep.
A day after Blake Snell became the majors’ first 20-game winner in two years, the Rays used an “opener” for the 49th time this season.
Yarbrough, the second of five pitchers, on Wednesday struck out six in four innings for his 15th victory as Tampa Bay completed a three-game sweep with a 9-3 win at Texas.
“There’s a lot that he’s doing right, that’s pretty awesome,” manager Kevin Cash said of Yarbrough (15-5), who has started only six of his 36 games and broke the Rays’ rookie record for wins that had stood since their first season in 1998.
“He’s earned those. You’ve got to come in and you’ve got to pitch well to get a ‘W’ more times than not, and he’s done that,” Cash said. “Whether he’s started games or coming in after an opener, he’s really taking advantage of that role that we’ve asked him to pitch in.”
The Rays (85-66), who have won 14 of their 17 games this month and have 11 remaining, entered the day more than five games behind Oakland for the American League’s second wild card, despite a record that would lead or share the lead in three divisions in baseball.
However, they are third in the AL East behind the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
“It’s really easy to look too much at the bigger picture,” said Matt Duffy, who had a two-run double. “In order to take care of win after win, and game after game, you have to focus on what’s right in front of you.”
Going into the finale against the Rangers, Tampa Bay’s record was the same as that of AL Central champions Detroit and better than those of National League East leaders Atlanta and the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jake Bauers had a two-run single and scored on Willy Adames’ single in the second off lefty Yohander Mendez (2-2) to put the Rays ahead to stay at 3-0.
Pham hit his 18th homer leading off the third, and Duffy’s double in the fourth made it 8-1.
Pham went deep again in the eighth for his seventh career multi-homer game, off 45-year-old Bartolo Colon, who was pitching in relief. It was Colon’s first appearance since his last start on Sept. 5.
“I play this game to win, and I play it to have success,” said Pham, whose career-best 21-game on-base streak is the longest active in the AL. “That’s what’s been going on here. When you have that combination in the locker room, it’s always going to be good.”
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