The Associated Press
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–The Tampa Bay Rays found success with a new pitching formula.
Ryan Yarbrough got his rookie-leading 16th win as the Rays turned another bullpen game into their 90th victory, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 9-4 yesterday afternoon.
The Rays (90-72) went to the unconventional plan of using relievers to open games in addition to traditional starters in mid-May because of injuries.
The results were about equal as Tampa Bay went 46-38 with regular starters and 44-34 when utilizing the bullpen, and the trend began to take hold around the majors.
But no team did it as often as the Rays.
“I don’t think you can really argue with the results we’ve had with it, and not just with me but with other guys, too,” Yarbrough said.
“For it to work that well was a big blessing,” he noted.
“And you never know. If it didn’t work that well, we’d never know where we could be right now.”
Ryne Stanek was Tampa Bay’s “opener” for the 29th time and went two scoreless innings.
Yarbrough (16-6) followed and gave up two runs and four hits over three innings to notch his 14th relief win.
Austin Pruitt went the final 3 1/3 innings to pick up his fourth save. He’s gone three or more innings in four of his five career saves.
Sam Gaviglio (3-10) allowed five runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings in taking the loss.
The Rays went 87-60 after losing 12 of their first 15 games.
“Hopefully the groundwork has been laid,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash.
“The core group that has gotten some opportunities, played at a really high level, learned how to win together.”
Outgoing Jays’ manager John Gibbons decided to have some fun in the finale and let 35-year-old catcher Russell Martin manage the game.
Martin said he “thought about it for a couple seconds” before deciding to keep himself on the bench, declining the opportunity to serve as a player-manager.
“It was fun,” Martin said. “Didn’t realize how much went into it.
“A cool experience. It’s tougher than it looks,” he added.
Toronto announced Wednesday that Gibbons won’t be back as manager next season.
“He’s one of my favourites,” Martin said. “I’m going to miss him.
“He’s a special guy. He’s kind of like having a second dad.”
Over two stints totalling 11 seasons, Gibbons went 793-789 with the Jays.
Toronto finished 73-89, a three-game drop from 2017.
Tampa Bay improved 10 games from last year and joined the 2012 Rays (90) and 2013 Texas Rangers (91) as the only 90-win teams since the second wild card was introduced in 2012 to miss the post-season.
Elsewhere in the AL, Minnesota beat Chicago 5-4, Boston dumped New York 10-2, Baltimore blanked Houston 4-0, L.A. nipped Oakland 5-4, Seattle downed Texas 3-1, and Cleveland edged Kansas City 2-1.
Over in the NL, L.A. bombed San Francisco 15-0, Philadelphia beat Atlanta 3-1, Colorado routed Washington 12-0, New York nipped Miami 1-0, Pittsburgh topped Cincinnati 6-5 (10 innings), San Diego shaded Arizona 4-3 (10 innings), and Chicago doubled St. Louis 10-5.
Milwaukee thumped Detroit 11-0 in interleague play.