The Tampa Bay Rays are locked in a very tight race for one of the two American League Wild Cards with the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians. They’ve fought through injuries to several key players to get to September with a real shot at making the postseason for the first time since 2013. Amidst all of the chaos, pitcher Ryan Yarbrough is keeping the team afloat.
Injuries have hit the pitching staff hard, too. Blake Snell, the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the American League, hasn’t pitched since July 21 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his pitching elbow. Tyler Glasnow was off to the kind of start to the season that made you wonder if he might win this year’s Cy Young, but he hasn’t pitched since May 10th due to a right forearm strain.
The Rays have also suffered injuries in their lineup. Brandon Lowe was named an All-Star and looked to be the favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year Award when he fouled a ball off his leg on July 2nd. He hasn’t played since and isn’t expected to return this season. Then on July 22nd, another one of Tampa Bay’s best hitters, Yandy Diaz, fouled a ball off his leg. Like Lowe, he hasn’t played since, and like Lowe, he likely won’t play again this year.
Back to pitching, the Rays still have Charlie Morton, but he can only pitch every fifth game. Snell and Glasnow are both nearing returns, but in the meantime, the Rays have needed other pitchers to step up. One who’s done so is Yarbrough.
Ryan Yarbrough Has Stepped Up For The Tampa Bay Rays
Yarbrough had a solid rookie season for the Rays in 2018. In 147.1 innings, he went 16-6 with a 3.91 ERA, 4.19 FIP and 1.29 WHIP. He only made six official starts, though, as the Rays sheltered him by using an opener.
However, Yarbrough struggled to begin his sophomore season. After posting an 8.10 ERA over 16.2 innings through his first five outings, the Rays optioned him to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Yarbrough spent a month in the minors, and it seems to have served him well. He’s pitched much better since being recalled.
Since returning to the Rays on May 23, Yarbrough has quietly been outstanding. In 104.2 innings over 19 appearances since then, he’s gone 9-2 with a 2.75 ERA, 2.96 FIP and 0.83 WHIP. He even seems to have gotten to the point where the Rays trust him to start without needing an opener. 10 of his 19 appearances since being recalled have been starts, including each of his last five.
The highlight of Yarbrough’s season came on August 11th, when he started against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. He allowed three hits, all singles, and no walks while striking out eight batters over 8.2 shutout innings. He never even allowed a baserunner to get into scoring position, and was one out away from pitching the Rays’ first complete game in more than three years when Kevin Cash made a controversial decision to remove Yarbrough from the game.
Given Yarbrough’s success, he is a candidate to start the American League Wild Card Game for the Rays. If they’re able to advance, a postseason rotation of Morton, Snell, Glasnow and Yarbrough could have the Rays feeling good about their chances to make a deep playoff run.
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