AL East leading Rays handle Nationals, clinch winning record

Ryan Yarbrough worked in relief for his first victory this year, and the Tampa Bay Rays secured their third straight winning season Tuesday with a 6-1 triumph over the Washington Nationals in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The American League East-leading Rays moved to 31-17, guaranteeing a winning record in the 60-game season. The last time Tampa Bay didn’t post a winning record was in 2017 when it finished 80-82.

In his second appearance since returning from the injured list, Yarbrough (1-3) tossed 5 2/3 innings and allowed one run on five hits with five strikeouts. The lefty worked out of a no-out, first-and-second jam in the fifth before yielding a run in the sixth.

Starter John Curtiss, who is normally a Rays reliever, started for the second time and worked 1 1/3 as the club opener.

Nate Lowe homered for the third time in four games and went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and his first career stolen base. Kevin Kiermaier (two RBIs, run, stolen base, walk), Manuel Margot (run, RBI, stolen base) and Mike Brosseau (run, stolen base) each had two hits.

Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez (2-5) was tagged for six runs in 4 1/3 innings in his second consecutive start against Tampa Bay — he won opposed by Yarbrough last Tuesday in Washington — and the Rays stole four bases off him and five in total.

Rookies Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia each notched two hits for Washington (17-29), which lost its third straight.

Sanchez retired four of the first five batters he faced before offering up a 77 mph curveball to Lowe, who had a two-homer game Friday night. Lowe turned on the pitch and hit a long ball to right for his third home run.

Kevan Smith pushed the lead to 2-0 when he drove home Kiermaier with a single to left. With two outs, Kiermaier reached on a single and advanced to second when Sanchez failed to come set on his delivery, resulting in a balk.

The home side padded its lead 6-0 in a four-run fifth on Margot’s RBI infield single that chased Sanchez, a run-scoring walk by Lowe against reliever Ben Braymer and a two-run single to left by Kiermaier.

Kurt Suzuki’s RBI groundout in the sixth put the visitors on the board, but reliever Nick Anderson recorded his fifth save by striking out Garcia and pinch hitter Yadiel Hernandez with the bases full in the ninth.