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NEW YORK — Ryan Yarbrough felt he had been pitching better than the results indicated. On Sunday, he showed what he meant.
Taking over in the second inning for opener Andrew Kittredge, Yarbrough baffled and stymied the Yankees for five innings, mixing speeds and location to get his usual soft contact, allowing just two hits and one run en route to a 4-2 win.
His most tense moment came in the fifth.
A 2-1 lead got away as Yarbrough allowed a leadoff double by Gio Urshela, made the mistake of a two-out walk to No. 9 hitter Kyle Higashioka, then gave up an RBI single to the most consistent Yankees hitter, DJ LeMahieu.
That brought hulking Aaron Judge to the plate, in what seemed a bad matchup for the Rays, but Yarbrough won the battle, striking him out on a full-count 81 mph changeup.
“It was just a matter of limiting that big inning, especially when they scored the run there and was able to kind of get a strikeout to get out of it,’' Yarbrough said. “I think that was the big moment. Where the last couple previous (games), they just kind of kept rolling. So to kind of nip that in the bud there, it’s definitely something to build off of.’'
Yarbrough (1-2, 5.40) wasn’t the only Rays pitcher to come up big. After Diego Castillo got four outs to get them to the ninth, lefty Jeffrey Springs, acquired in a prespring trade after being designated for assignment by Boston, closed it out for his first big-league save.
“We just like how his stuff is trending up,’' manager Kevin Cash said. “That is big for him. I don’t know if he envisioned coming out of spring training that he’d be closing out a Sunday day game against the Yankees. But we’ve got all the confidence in the world and the confidence in a lot of those guys that maybe don’t have as much (experience) underneath them right now. They’re young, but we’re going to need them. We’re going to continue to lean on them.’'
The trip to Kansas City for a three-game series will be a homecoming of sorts for a couple of Rays.
Lefty Josh Fleming, who is scheduled to start Monday, grew up in the St. Louis area and figures to have 40 or so friends and relatives making the cross-state drive to see him pitch — and make their presence known. “It’s going to be pretty loud,’' he said. “And anytime I hear screaming, I know it’s going to be from them.”
Outfielder Brett Phillips played parts of three seasons with the Royals before being traded to the Rays on Aug. 27, 2020. “I appreciate those guys,’' he said. “A lot of them are still buddies of mine, and I wish them well. Looking forward to competing against them and heading back there and in front of the Kansas City crowd.’'
Kiermaier excited to be back
Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who had been out since April 6 with a left quad strain, said he was excited Sunday to be back in action from his latest injury. “I think I’m past it,’' he said. “I wouldn’t be playing if I wasn’t confident that if I’m asked to score from first on a double, I know I can do so. Nothing’s guaranteed in this game. I’ll say that, especially with the history I’ve had, but I choose not to think like that. I’m able. I’m ready to go. And I want to make an impact.’' Cash said they plan to manage Kiermaier’s workload going forward: “We’ve got to find a way to keep him on the field because we know he helps us win games.”
• Reliever Collin McHugh, who had another rough outing Saturday and a 10.13 ERA through four games, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain. Right-hander Chris Mazza, who was sent down Saturday to make room for Kiermaier, was called back up, an easy move as he had been shifted to the taxi squad.
• Shortstop Willy Adames and outfielder Randy Arozarena were out of the lineup, Cash saying they could use a day to work in the batting cage and get back on their games. “Just two guys that ... appear a tick off right now,” he said. “They’re probably behind some fastballs, early on some breaking balls. And that’s a sign of a guy that’s just caught in between.”
• The Yankees have lost a season-high five straight games.
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