Aaron Judge homers off Max Scherzer, American League takes 1-0 lead

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Despite the earlier rain, the All-Star Game got underway on time and following the usual pregame festivities Max Scherzer took the hill to face the American League.

Scherzer did great in the first inning, striking out Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve and then, following a walk to Mike Trout and giving up a single to J.D. Matinez, retired Jose Ramirez on a weak popup. Scherzer was cooing with gas: the reigning Cy Young winner had not thrown a pitch as fast as 98 m.p.h. all season, but he threw three of those during his scoreless first.

Chris Sale‘s work in the bottom half was more about nasty stuff than mere heat. Following a leadoff single allowed to Javier Baez he got Nolan Arenado to fly out to left, struck out Paul Goldschmidt on a nasty slider and then got Freddie Freeman out via a fly to left.

Aaron Judge led off the second. The same Aaron Judge someone wrote today could be trade bait if the Yankees felt so inclined. Which, um, OK, that was dumb anyway, but it looked even dumber when Judge muscled Scherzer’s second pitch — a letter-high fastball — out to left field with many, many feet to spare for a homer.

Scherzer got the rest of the A.L. side, but the damage had been done. The American League leads 1-0 after an inning and a half.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.