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AL East report: Sergio Romo starts back-to-back games for the Rays

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The week that was in the American League East

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Los Angeles Angels Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays had a six-game winning streak last week to climb back toward respectability, but what was most notable about them over the weekend was when Sergio Romo made the first two starts of his major league career.

Romo is an 11-year veteran who was a key part of three World Series-winning bullpens with the San Francisco Giants, and pitched in relief in the first 588 appearances of his major league career.

But manager Kevin Cash opted to start Romo on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels, preferring the matchups in the first inning before left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, normally a starter, took over in the second inning.

Romo struck out right-handers Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, and Justin Upton in the first inning on Saturday. On Sunday Romo started again and pitched into the second inning. He walked two but also struck out three and didn’t allow a run.

“I was really impressed with Sergio, the way he handled everything, because he might not admit to it but that’s totally different,” Cash told the Associated Press Saturday. “It’s totally different than what he’s ever been accustomed to and he adjusted to it. Threw strikes, opened the game with a slider, so it was just like he was pitching in the ninth inning.”

Romo’s 588 relief appearances before his first career start trail only Troy Percival (638), Todd Jones (632), and Chuck McElroy (603) in major league history, per STATS LLC.

Yarborough lasted six innings on Saturday and Tampa Bay won its sixth straight to reach .500 (22-22), quite a feat after they started the season 3-12. Sunday was more of a traditional bullpen game for the Rays, who used three pitchers after Romo and lost to Shohei Ohtani and the Halos.

It’s hard to fault Tampa Bay for thinking outside the box in a year in which they have lost starting pitchers Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell to Tommy John surgery. Nathan Eovaldi, who has had two Tommy John surgeries in his career, is currently on the disabled list with loose bodies in his right elbow and is currently on a minor league rehab assignment. Eovaldi last pitched in the majors in 2016.

The bottom line is the Rays are hurting for pitching options, and they tried something different to try to shake things up. At the very least it made them interesting.

Just Dingers

J.D. Martinez hit two more home runs against Baltimore on Sunday, giving the Boston Red Sox slugger six dingers in his last eight games. Martinez has 15 home runs on the season, tied for the major league lead with teammate Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox as a team lead baseball with 68 home runs, on pace for 234 this season. Last year Boston ranked 27th in baseball with 168 homers.

Martinez in May is hitting .378/.415/.824 with 10 home runs, and there are still 10 Red Sox games left this month. Over his last 162 games, Martinez has 58 home runs and 142 RBI to go with a robust .678 slugging percentage. That’ll play.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox
J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts each have 15 home runs this season, most in the majors.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Out of context quote of the week

“I’m rich. I can buy houses if I want.”

Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, to the Baltimore Sun on a report he bought a mansion that once belonged to Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.

Cream of the crop

Boston (32-15) had to win Sunday just to keep pace with the New York Yankees (30-13), who beat the Royals on Sunday to secure their eighth consecutive series win. New York started the season just 9-9 but have won 21 of their last 25 games and now own the best record in baseball.

New York has played four fewer games than Boston, and even had a game rained out plus another suspended last week, with those two teams tied atop the division. The Yankees (.698) and Red Sox (.681) have the two best records in baseball.