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Bullpen day can’t save Rays from series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG- Another bad inning was all it took to continue the Tampa Bay Rays’€™ historically horrendous start to the season.

Lefty Ryan Yarbrough got the start on the team/€™s designated “bullpen day”€ and allowed five runs — but only two earned — in a 10-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Tropicana Field on Sunday afternoon. He gave up three hits, walked two and struck out two.

Compared to the Rays’ recent pitching performances, Sunday’s outing was a gem.

“€œHe will be better than that,”€ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It’€™s probably a lot of anxiety. I know he’s pitched here but there’s something to be said about that first start.”

When Cash and the Rays first introduced the concept of bullpen days, it seemed like a polite way of saying the club didn’t trust the back end of the rotation to make it out of the fourth inning anyhow so they might as well give it a PR-friendly spin as being some sort of new baseball innovation.

“We are going to debate it probably for a while,” Cash said. Anytime you do something different, it’s going to get debated. We understand that. We knew the thoughts that would come along with it.

“I don’€™t know if it’€™s totally fair to say when you are in a 3-12 stretch because when you are in that stretch, everything is going wrong — defense, pitching, hitting. It’€™s tough to evaluate and say something isn’€™t working when, right now, nothing is working.”

With subpar results to start the season by ‘€œfull time’ starters Chris Archer (18 ER in 20 2/3 IP), Jake Faria (10 in 11) and Blake Snell (6 ER in last 9 1/3 IP), the bullpen day crew has been, by far, the team’s most reliable option this season. The starter by committee approach, on the other hand, has resulted in a 1.15 ERA before Sunday, including 15 1/3 straight scoreless from Yonny Chirinos, who has made two of those “starts.”€

The day started off on the right foot after the first batter Denard Span led off the game with a solo home run to center. Kevin Keirmaier blooped a single into no man’s land in shallow left-center and advanced to second after Rhys Hoskins bobbled the ball. Mallex Smith brought him after slashing a triple down the left field line to give the Rays an early 2-0 lead. Kiermaier would leave the game after the sequence after suffering a right thumb sprain on his slide into second.

“€œI tried squeezing a ball and I had to shut it down right away,” Kiermaier said. “€œI knew something wasn’t right.”

The lead wouldn’€™t last long as Scott Kingery‘s bases-loaded double off the wall in center field capped a four-run third for the Phillies.

The Rays had a chance to even things up in the bottom of the sixth. Joey Wendle was hit by a pitch from Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios who then gave up a single to catcher Jesus Sucre to put two men on with one out. Daniel Robertson popped out to the catcher. Denard Span crushed a liner to right field was caught by a diving Aaron Altherr to end the inning and the threat.

They also squandered another opportunity in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases against Phillies reliever Edubray Ramos. Ramos was able to strike out Sucre, Robertson. A walk by Span at least brought in one run before Carlos Gomez whiffed to end the frame.

Sunday also marked Jackie Robinson day across the league to celebrate the 71st anniversary of the historic breaking of the game’s color barrier. Players from both the Phillies and Rays wore No. 42 on their jersey to pay homage to the pioneer of equality. After the game, the game-worn jerseys and hats, which feature a commemorative patch, will be auctioned online to raise money for the Rays Baseball Foundation to provide youth baseball opportunities.

The Rays will try and reverse their 3-12 start to the season — the worst in franchise history — when they welcome the Rangers to town for a three-game set. Blake Snell (1-1, 3.60) will face off against lefty Martin Perez (1-1, 11.88).

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