MIAMI — Rays veteran Ryan Yarbrough and top Marlins prospect Sixto Sanchez matched zeroes into the seventh inning Friday night, with one difference.
“He was throwing 100, and I wasn’t,” Yarbrough said. “A nice little contrast there.”
There was also a contrast in bullpen performances. Yarbrough and two relievers combined on a five-hitter, and AL East leader Tampa Bay won its third game in a row by scratching out runs in the eighth and ninth to beat Miami 2-0.
The 22-year-old Sanchez struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings in his second major league start, but the Rays broke through in the eighth when Yandy Diaz delivered a two-out RBI single.
Michael Perez, a late addition to the Rays lineup, added a two-out run-scoring single in the ninth.
Both teams were back on the field to start the series on Jackie Robinson Day after declining to play games Thursday in protest against racial injustice.
The crafty Yarbrough threw mostly in the 80s, but blanked Miami for 6 2/3 innings before leaving the game as a precaution with a tight left groin. The problem has bothered him in seasons past and also in recent starts.
“He didn’t come out of the game hurt,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He came out the game because he didn’t want to overexert.”
Yarbrough remained winless in his past 15 starts, including seven this year. But he lowered his ERA to 3.65 with his longest outing this season.
“I was really keeping guys on their toes and mixing speeds and keeping guys off balance and making them uncomfortable at the plate,” he said.
Sanchez was equally dominant as the first six innings moved quickly.
“They got there different ways,” Cash said. “Yarbs gets there at 87, 89, and their young man was at 97 to 100. That was some impressive stuff from Sanchez. He threw strikes, he was able to land his offspeed pitches, and then he had a wipeout changeup. A pretty talented pitcher, for sure.”
Sanchez hit 101 mph in the first inning and 99 in the seventh. He scattered six hits, all singles, and departed after throwing 92 pitches.
“He was really good — kind of in control all night,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “He gave us a really good shot. We just weren’t able to get on the board for him.”
Pete Fairbanks (4-1) didn’t allow a hit in 1 1/3 innings, and Diego Castillo pitched around a two-out double and a walk in the ninth for his second save. The Rays (22-11) climbed a season-high 11 games above .500 and have won 10 of their past 12.
Austin Meadows singled in the eighth against Richard Bleier (1-1), advanced on a groundout and came home on Diaz's single to give the Rays the only run they needed.
Rays: RHP Charlie Morton (right shoulder) threw to hitters Thursday. Another session is planned this weekend, and he might rejoin the rotation after that. ... C Mike Zunino (left oblique tightness) was scratched from the starting lineup and replaced by Perez.
Marlins: INF-OF Garrett Cooper and RHP Yimi Garcia, sidelined during the team’s coronavirus outbreak last month, were reinstated from the injured list.
“COVID, it took a lot out of me," said Cooper, who had two hits Friday night. “I think I had every symptom out there. I had the fever, the chills, the body aches, the hot, the cold. It was a rough go.”
Miami INF Logan Forsythe (right oblique strain) went on the 60-day injured list. RHP Jorge Guzman was optioned to the alternate training site.
Marlins opening day starter Sandy Alcantara, also sidelined during the coronavirus outbreak, is expected to return Sunday. LHP Caleb Smith and RHP Jose Ureña will also likely be back soon, fortifying the rotation for a September stretch when Miami will play four doubleheaders in 10 days.
“We will be able to throw a quality arm at you every day,” Mattingly said. “We just have to make sure we schedule it properly.”
The Rays acquired LHP Cody Reed from the Cincinnati Reds for RHP Riley O’Brien. Reed spent parts of five seasons with the Reds, going 2-12 with a 5.44 ERA in 51 appearances.
Rays: LHP Josh Fleming (1-0, 3.60) is scheduled to make his second major league start Saturday. He pitched five innings of two-run ball to win his debut Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Marlins: RHP Pablo López (3-1, 1.98) is scheduled to start Saturday. He has allowed two earned runs or less in all five starts this year.
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Steven Wine, The Associated Press