As the number of strikeouts increased for Ryan Yarbrough on Friday night against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, all he could do was keep hitting his spots. He went on to strike out a career high 13 batters and that helped him earn his 10th win of the season.
“I’m not trying to strikeout a certain number of guys,” Yarbrough said. “I’m just trying to keep myself in good situations. Everything felt like it was working, my slider or curve, I was able to do some damage, which was nice, especially against a lineup like that.”
Yarbrough, who went six innings, matched the season-high for strikeouts by a Bulls starter, equalling the mark set by Jacob Faria on May 10 against the Columbus Clippers. He had reached nine strikeouts in a start twice this season but a double-digit total eluded him until Friday night. He got there in four innings, including twice recording three Ks in a frame. Three more strikeouts followed in his final two innings of work.
"It was one of those nights," Yarbrough said.
Bulls manager Jared Sandberg called Yarbrough’s outing exceptional.
“He pitched extremely well,” Sandberg said. “That was impressive. The strikeouts just piled up.”
Yarbrough said his control allowed him to throw more off-speed pitches against the left-handed batters he faced.
"Being able to throw changeups against lefthanders really opens things up," Yarbrough said. "That helped a little bit."
The lanky lefthander allowed only four hits and a pair of runs as the Bulls reached the 60-win plateau and snapped a five-game winning streak by Lehigh Valley.
But the number Yarbrough said he liked seeing even more was his 10th win, which put him in a four-way tie for the league lead in wins including teammate Yonny Chirinos.
"That's the better feeling," Yarbrough said. "Getting 10 wins shows when you're playing a on team like this that you're putting the team in a good situation to win games."
The Bulls also have a shot to add a third pitcher to the 10-win club on Sunday when Brent Honeywell (9-7) takes to the mound to wrap up the four-game series with the IronPigs.
"It will be cool if we have three 10-game winners here," Yarbrough said. "Everyone is happy and having fun coming to the ballpark. On the pitching side, when you're doing really well, it makes it a little more competitive because you want to do better each time out."
Sandberg said having Chirinos and Yarbrough in the rotation has been one of the keys for Durham's success. The Bulls hold a commanding lead in the South Division and are 111/2 games up over second-place Gwinnett.
"They're two of the better pitchers in the league," Sandberg said. "It's a credit to them. But they've been able to pitch deep into games, which has helped our bullpen, too."
This week the Bulls won two of three games at home over West-leading Indianapolis and split a four-game set on the Indians' field a couple of weeks ago. They still have seven games yet to play against North leader Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.