Ryan Yarbrough did everything right.
The southpaw, sometimes a starter and sometimes a bulk reliever for the Rays, had gone 8 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday against the Mariners, and was an out away from his first-ever complete game. The only thing standing in his way was Domingo Santana, a batter whom he'd already retired twice and who reached once on catcher's interference.
Except Santana wasn't the one standing in his way. His own manager was.
Rays manager Kevin Cash removed Yarbrough, who'd allowed three hits and struck out eight while throwing 99 pitches over his 8 2/3 shutout frames, in favor of Emilio Pagan. Mariners manager Scott Servais countered with Omar Narvaez, who lined a one-hopper to the second baseman to end the game.
All's well that ends well, but Yarbrough admitted after the game to being "a little angry" at the decision, despite understanding the reasoning.
"I think [Cash] would want me to be," he said. "I think he would want me to want to finish it. I don't think I have any ill-will about it or anything. Obviously, Emilio came in and did a great job, and we won the ballgame and got a series sweep against a team that beat us up last year."
The unusual ending grabs headlines -- this one included -- but the spotlight really deserves to be on Yarbrough, who, after becoming the poster child for the effectiveness of bulk relief last year, has been stellar once again in 2019. The 27-year-old improved to 11-3 with Sunday's win, lowering his ERA to 3.56 with a 0.90 WHIP and 78/13 K/BB ratio across 98 2/3 innings.
If there's a solace for Yarbrough, it's that these are the Rays, a team that, as evidenced by their pioneering of the opener, are as unorthodox as they come. It's also an organization that gets results, and in a fight to hold onto a postseason spot, Cash said he stands by Sunday's move.
“We're in the spot where we've got to win games,” Cash said. “We're going to stay consistent to the decisions that have gotten us to this point. Those guys are really good in the clubhouse. Obviously, they want the best for their teammates and I certainly do, too, but I liked the matchup that we got.”
Scherzer Feeling 'Good' With Progress
If he keeps progressing, opponents will once again be feeling really bad standing in against him.
Scherzer, who's made just one start since July 6, threw off a mound Saturday and woke up Sunday feeling good, Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters. Scherzer has been on the injured list since July 26 with a mild rhomboid strain.
The Nats will wait until Monday to see how he feels before making any further plans, but if the 35-year-old is still feeling OK the next step will likely be a simulated game Tuesday.
“We will see where he’s at tomorrow,” Martinez said. “As you know, he’ll push the envelope.”
Scherzer made a start on July 6, striking out 11 Royals over seven scoreless innings, but sat out the All-Star Game and eventually hit the injured list with a mid-back strain. He returned on July 25 against the Rockies, allowing three runs over five innings, but went right back on the IL a day later with the rhomboid strain.
The sooner the Nats and fantasy players can get Scherzer back on the mound the better -- he's been so dominant this year that he is still the National League leader in strikeouts, tied with Jacob deGrom, despite having made just one start in the past month-plus -- but given his recent injury history the club is being extra cautious with the right-hander. His progress in recent days offers hope that there's light at the end of the tunnel, though.
“Right now, it’s all based on his recovery,” Martinez said of a timeline. “So far, he’s been pretty good.”
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Watch The Throne
The Royals are a surprisingly fun team for being so bad.
Whit Merrifield led off the game with a homer, and Dozier knocked a solo shot later in the inning. Soler hit a two-run blast in the third, and Dozier and Soler went back-to-back in the eighth to ice the game.
“I love it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I need runs. I have to have runs. And they’ve been providing them in grand fashion.”
The 43-76 Royals aren't going anywhere this year, but guys like Merrifield, Dozier and Soler -- and that's not mentioning perhaps the most electric of them all, Adalberto Mondesi, who's on the injured list at present -- have given them some fantasy intrigue, if nothing else. Merrifield remains one of the game's premier power-speed players and one of the true five-category fillers, but Dozier's breakout has been among the most surprising in the league and Soler has cashed in on the promise he showed as a young member of the Cubs a few years ago.
“He’s the hottest hitter in baseball right now,” Dozier said of Soler. “We were just talking about it. What he’s doing is video game stuff. If I get on base, he’ll get me in somehow.”
"[Dozier] hits right before me, and if he hits one, I want to hit one, too," Soler said. "Before the first at-bat, I told Dozier, 'Let's see if we can go back-to-back in this inning.' We didn't do it that inning, but we did it in [the eighth inning].”
National League Quick Hits: Nationals manager Dave Martinez said after Sunday's game that Juan Soto is considered day-to-day with a mild ankle strain. Soto had to leave Sunday's game after rolling his right ankle, but thankfully X-rays came back negative and he was able to avoid any significant injury. The 20-year-old superstar is slashing .288/.402/.540 with 24 homers, 77 RBI and 10 stolen bases on the season. It would have been a devastating blow to the Nationals - and to fantasy owners - if he were to miss any time due to injury. ... Christian Yelich (back) remained out of the Brewers' lineup Sunday. Yelich hasn't played since Monday because of a nagging back issue. With an off day looming Monday, it made sense to give him another day off in hopes that he'll be ready Tuesday. Yelich was able to go through a workout Saturday. Trent Grisham started in right field Sunday. ... Hyun-Jin Ryu fired seven scoreless innings in a win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday. Ryu was phenomenal in his return to the Dodgers’ starting rotation following a nearly two-week absence because of neck soreness. The 32-year-old southpaw has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 21 of his 22 starts this season. With the win, he improves to 12-2 overall with a microscopic 1.45 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 121/17 K/BB ratio across 142 2/3 innings. ... Kris Bryant went 2-for-5 with a go-ahead, three-run home run in the seventh inning as the Cubs came back to beat the Reds 6-3 on Sunday. For Bryant, the homer was his 23rd of the year, giving him 58 RBI and 86 runs scored. The 27-year-old is batting a healthy .292/.391/.532 in 112 games this year ... Paul Goldschmidt went 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, three RBI and a stolen base to help the Cardinals complete a three-game series sweep against the Pirates with an 11-9 victory on Sunday. The 31-year-old slugger has put together an impressive hot streak since the start of July, hitting .302 (38-for-126) with 12 home runs and 31 RBI in 34 games during that span ... German Marquez stuck out nine batters over eight innings in a win over the Padres on Sunday. The 24-year-old righty remains one of the most polarizing pitchers in the fantasy landscape thanks to the sheer absurdity of the Grand Canyon-sized gap between his stellar results on the road versus his utter ineptitude at home this season. He owns a solid 3.93 ERA across 14 road tilts and a bloated 6.45 ERA in 12 starts in the high-octane offensive environment of Coors Field. He’ll square off against the Marlins at home on Friday. If there were ever a time to roll the dice and trust him, this is it. ... Josh Bell snapped a 26-game homerless drought with a pair of two-run homers in the Pirates' loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. The 26-year-old slugger evolved into an elite four-category fantasy producer during a monster first-half, but has been mired in an epic 18-for-84 tailspin at the plate since the All-Star break. It’s no coincidence that the Pirates have followed suit, losing eight consecutive games and 24 of 28 overall since the All-Star break ... Justin Turner homered twice to lead the Dodgers to a 9-3 blowout victory over the Diamondbacks on Sunday. The 34-year-old third baseman has begun to heat up from an over-the-fence pop standpoint, going deep nine times in 28 games since the All-Star break.
American League Quick Hits: Gleyber Torres (core) returned to the Yankees' lineup Sunday. Torres suffered a core muscle injury a week ago and Sunday was only the second time he's played since then. He went hitless in three at-bats in the low-scoring affair. ... Mike Minor hurled a gem in Sunday's 1-0 win over the Brewers, striking out 11 while surrendering just four hits across eight innings. He required 103 pitches (73 strikes) to complete his eight sterling frames. Despite all of this beautiful work, drama abounded. It took the Rangers until the seventh to scrape a run across the plate, as opposing starter Jordan Lyles was game for a pitcher's duel. Minor has fired off back-to-back shutout starts - both finishing as 1-0 wins - in his last two outings. He will try to keep the good times rolling when he brings his 2.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 159/51 K/BB ratio (155 innings) into a home start against the Twins when he next toes the rubber. ... Tommy Pham (hand) returned to the Rays' lineup Sunday. Pham sat out Saturday with a sore right hand, but he's fine. He went hitless in four at-bats in his return ... Masahiro Tanaka blanked the Blue Jays over eight-plus innings Sunday, leading the Yankees to a 1-0 shutout win. The right-hander scattered two singles and didn't issue a walk over his first eight innings, and manager Aaron Boone let Tanaka take the mound in the ninth to look for a complete game. Tanaka surrendered a leadoff single to Brandon Drury, though, prompting Boone to turn to Aroldis Chapman to get the final three outs. He did, earning Tanaka his eighth win of the year. The 30-year-old owns a 4.64 ERA and 1.26 WHIP through 24 starts, and he'll look to keep the momentum going Friday against the Indians. ... Lucas Giolito surrendered two runs on five hits while striking out 13 over six innings in Sunday's 2-0 loss to the A's. While he had two starts of six or more earned runs in July, Giolito has calmed things down by degrees of late, holding the opposition to three or fewer earned runs in each of his last three outings. ... Carlos Santana went 2-for-4 with a grand slam and five RBI to help the Indians take three out of four games in a pivotal series against the Twins with a 7-3 extra-inning victory on Sunday. The 33-year-old slugger has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance campaign in his return to Cleveland, posting a .282/.404/.522 triple-slash line with 80 runs scored, 70 RBI and four stolen bases in 498 plate appearances ... Rio Ruiz went 2-for-5 with a two-run, walk-off home run in the ninth inning to stun the Astros in an 8-7 victory Sunday. The homer was the seventh of the year for the 25-year-old, who's hitting .244/.310/.361 in 92 games. It's a shot he won't soon forget.