NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Yarbrough became a big leaguer at a time when the highest esteem was reserved for pitchers who started games and those that finished them.
The Tampa Bay Rays left-hander has helped transform baseball in a role that does neither, and so he knows how rare a chance he got Thursday when manager Kevin Cash gave him back the ball with the chance to start and finish the ninth inning.
“My whole mission was just to get all three,” Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough ended a 24-start winless skid with Tampa Bay’s first complete game in more than five years, Austin Meadows homered off shaky Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and drove in five runs, and the Rays beat New York 9-2 Thursday.
Yarbrough (3-3), best known as Tampa Bay’s go-to bulk man in the early days of the opener, hadn’t won a start since Aug. 11, 2019. He threw a career-high 8 2/3 innings that day, but with the Rays’ clinging to a 1-0 lead over Seattle, Cash yanked him after just 100 pitches.
Staked to a big lead this time, Yarbrough was allowed to finish out with a career-most 113 pitches.
“It kind of comes full circle, I guess,” Yarbrough said.
Tampa Bay had gone a major league record streak of 731 games without a complete game since Matt Andriese’s two-hit shutout of Oakland on May 14, 2016. Toronto now has gone the longest at 231 games.
“Our team put us in a really good chance for me to do that,” Yarbrough said. “With how we do things, with a close lead, that’s not going to be able to happen.”
The AL East-leading Rays salvaged a four-game split, improving to 10-3 at Yankee Stadium since the start of last season. New York fell 4 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay and has dropped seven of 10 entering their first series this year against the rival Red Sox.
Yarbrough escaped a key jam in the fourth and allowed solo…
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