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 Gerrit Cole and drove in five runs, and the Rays beat the Yankees, 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 ⅔ 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 A.L. 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 ½ 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 homers to Brett Gardner and Miguel Andujar, but otherwise cruised.
The 29-year-old gave up two runs and six hits, walked none and struck out six.
“I’m sure he was probably sucking a little wind there in the eighth and ninth innings,” Cash said. “But I hope it’s something he wanted because we really appreciated him being able to complete it.”
Yarbrough took advantage of a favorable zone from plate umpire Chad Whitson, stealing several strikes off the outside corner. Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was ejected after berating Whitson during a pitching change in the seventh.
“I wanted to just get my point across,” Boone said. “I thought there were some close pitches, but the Rays outplayed us today.”
Asked about his effectiveness in that area, Yarbrough said “you worry about what you can control.”
Meadows homered three times in the series, including a go-ahead, two-run drive off Cole in the fourth inning. He added a three-run double off Nick Nelson in the seventh.
Cole (6-3) matched a season worst by allowing five runs in five innings. He entered with an A.L.-best 1.78 E.R.A. and dominated Tampa Bay in their previous meeting, striking out 12 in eight scoreless innings May 12.
He wasn’t nearly as sharp Thursday. Meadows put the Rays up 2-1 in the fourth, and Tampa Bay made it 5-1 an inning later on Brandon Lowe’s R.B.I. single and Yandy Díaz’s two-run hit.
Cole was replaced in the sixth after 92 pitches. He struck out seven, walked two and allowed five hits. He said he struggled to command his fastball, and that compounded issues created by what he perceived to be an inconsistent strike zone.
“Just underneath the ball a little bit today,” he said.
Meadows has five homers in seven games and 14 for the season. He leads the team with 44 R.B.I.
Yarbrough allowed no-out hits to Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela in the fourth but stranded both to preserve a 2-1 lead. Rougned Odor popped out to foul territory, then Yarbrough struck out Clint Frazier and Andujar with the runners at second and third.
Gardner’s homer was his first of the season. Andujar’s shot was his third this year, all in this four-game series.
Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the lineup for the second time in three days. He’s 1 for 16 with nine strikeouts in five games since returning from a left quadriceps strain.
Tatis Jr. Returns to Help Lead Padres Over Mets
SAN DIEGO — Fernando Tatis Jr. returned to the lineup with a two-run homer that slipped out of center fielder Mason Williams’ glove, and the San Diego Padres held off the Mets, 4-3, on Thursday night.
Yu Darvish (6-1) pitched effectively into the sixth inning and helped himself with two hits. Mark Melancon escaped a ninth-inning jam when Kevin Pillar grounded sharply into a game-ending double play.
Tatis also dashed home aggressively on a wild pitch as the Padres ended a four-game skid in the opener of a seven-game homestand against a pair of first-place teams.
“Tatis is talented. You see the speed, the power, the arm. He has many ways to beat you,” Mets Manager Luis Rojas said. “He is a special player.”
James McCann hit a two-run homer and Billy McKinney had an R.B.I. triple off the wall in the eighth that nearly tied it as the Mets fought back from a 4-0 deficit. The Mets had won six of seven.
Darvish gave up two runs and four hits in five and a third innings, striking out five.
“I think the cutter was pretty good tonight,” he said through a translator. “The last two innings I felt my mechanics came together as well.”
Mets starter Taijuan Walker (4-2) lasted five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and seven hits.
Melancon put his first two batters on but worked out of it to earn his major league-leading 18th save. The veteran closer was pitching for the first time since Saturday, when he was handed his second blown save in two days at Houston — his first two blown saves of the season.
Tatis was back in the lineup for the first time since being removed from Tuesday’s game in Chicago because of right oblique tightness. He hit a towering drive in the third after Manny Machado walked, tying for the big league lead with his 17th home run of the year.
“I kind of hit it a little bit too high. I wasn’t sure it was going to go out, but I’m glad it did,” Tatis said. “Every time we are back in San Diego it is way more viable, we have way more energy. It is awesome playing at home.”
Williams appeared to have the high fly lined up against the wall in straightaway center. He jumped and had the ball in his glove above the fence, but it popped out and went over for a 401-foot homer.
“It just came out of my glove when I impacted the wall. It’s a play I probably should have made,” Williams said. “The ball was in my glove, so I should have made it.”
Bob Brenly Taking Leave of Absence
Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Bob Brenly is stepping away from the booth over the next week after facing backlash for an on-air comment about Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman’s headwear.
“Beginning today, I have voluntarily decided to take some time off to listen, reflect and devote my attention to awareness training related to diversity and inclusion to enhance my understanding and appreciation of others,” Brenly said in a statement Thursday. “I plan to return to the booth next homestand, hopefully a better person.”
Brenly, working for Bally Sports Arizona, made the remark during the fourth inning of the Diamondbacks’ 6-5 victory in 10 innings at home Tuesday night.
“Pretty sure that’s the same durag that Tom Seaver used to wear when he pitched for the Mets,” Brenly said.
Stroman, who is Black, said on Twitter that he believed Brenly’s comments had racist undertones.
Diamondbacks pitcher Jon Duplantier, who also is Black, said he found Brenly’s comment about Stroman disappointing.
“The most disappointing part is that, though there has been a ton of progress and work done so that I, Marcus and other guys that look like me can show up as authentically as ourselves and be ourselves in a big stage, comments like the one that was made, they put us back,” Duplantier said after Arizona’s loss Thursday night in Milwaukee. “They put that progress back.
“And the youth, the future ballplayers that are coming up, that are watching Diamondbacks games, that are watching Mets games, that are watching M.L.B. games in general, by hearing that comment, potentially look at baseball and think they can’t be themselves. And that hurts.”