Red-hot Rays beat Tribe

CLEVELAND — Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash is excited about how his team is playing. The only thing missing for the Rays: a clear path to the playoffs.

Rookie Brandon Lowe homered and drove in three runs, and the Rays hung on in the ninth inning to defeat the Cleveland Indians 6-4 on Sunday, taking two of three from the AL Central leaders.

The Rays have won 11 of 13 and are a season-high 10 games over .500 (73-63). The stretch includes a three-game sweep over Boston and splitting two games with Atlanta.

“Right now I don’t think you could ask for much more,” Cash said. “The guys, we talk about how they come to the ballpark prepared every single day. The effort’s there every single day.”

Although moving into postseason contention is a long shot — Tampa Bay trails Oakland by eight games for the second wild card spot in the AL — Cash is pleased with how his team is progressing.

“We gotta have a lot of things go our way,” he said. “I couldn’t be more impressed and excited about how this team has played here recently and looking forward to how they’ll continue to play for the month of September.”

The Rays have pioneered the use of a reliever to open games before moving to a more conventional starting pitcher in the early innings.

“The guys they pitch are really good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Cashie is doing a really good job with their pitching. You can tell he’s having fun with it.”

Ryan Yarbrough, another rookie, allowed one run in five-plus innings of relief for opener Diego Castillo, who was removed after Yandy Diaz’s leadoff single in the second. Yarbrough (13-5), who earned his major league-leading 11th relief win, was pulled after Jose Ramirez’s RBI single in the seventh. Adam Kolarek pitched two scoreless innings before Cleveland made it closer in the ninth.

Francisco Lindor singled off Hunter Wood to lead off the ninth. Jose Ramirez drew a one-out walk and Diaz had an RBI single. Jose Alvarado replaced Wood and struck out Yonder Alonso, but Melky Cabrera’s two-run double cut the lead to two.

Alvarado struck out Jason Kipnis for his seventh save in 10 opportunities.

Lowe homered to lead off the second and added a two-run double in the seventh for his first-ever three-hit game.

Carlos Carrasco (16-7) allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings and lost for the third time in his last 11 decisions.

Carrasco appeared to wince after throwing a pitch to Jake Bauers in the fourth. Several infielders talked with him on the mound and were soon joined by Francona and a team trainer. Carrasco remained in the game and said that he was taking extra time between pitches.