Díaz gets 3 hits as Tampa Bay Rays beat Boston Red Sox 10-5

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Yandy Diaz had three hits, scored three times and drove in three runs, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 10-5.

Diaz’s 10th multi-hit game since June 26 raised his batting average to .500 (27 for 54) over his last 15 games.

Tampa Bay had dropped four of six, including a three-game series sweep at lowly Cincinnati.

After being called up for the second time this season on Monday, Luke Bard (1-0) pitched three innings for his first major league win since 2019 with the Los Angeles Angels. The 31-year-old right-hander is making a case for a long reliever spot with the big league club.

“They mentioned last time, when I was optioned, that that was kind of the need up here, and asked if I was comfortable with it,” Bard said. “I told them I would do whatever gets me here and keeps me here. I saw what was needed tonight and I was happy to fill that void.”

J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo had two hits apiece for the Red Sox, who have given up 25 runs in losing their last three games against the Rays.

The Rays led 5-1 after nine of their first 13 hitters (including Diaz and Ji-Man Choi twice each) reached base safely against Brayan Bello.

But Martinez hit a two-run double in the third, then doubled again in the fifth and scored on Bogaerts’ tying single.

Only a fully horizontal diving catch by center fielder Brett Phillips, robbing Trevor Story of a second-inning RBI double, kept the Rays from falling behind at that point.

Diaz regained the lead for Tampa Bay with a run-scoring double off Jake Diekman (4-1) in the sixth. Harold Ramirez then made it 7-5 when he drove in Diaz with a pinch-hit single off Kaleb Ort.

Diaz added a sacrifice fly in the eighth when the Rays tacked on three unearned runs.

“A lot of times in this game you hit the ball hard and you get nothing to show for it,” said Diaz, who has hit safely in 14 of 15 games. “Now I’m hitting balls that are falling in for hits.”

Bello permitted five runs and seven hits in four innings in his second major league start.

“He gave us 12 outs. We needed him to do that and he did. … He gave us a chance to win the game,” said manager Alex Cora, who was questioned about leaving the rookie in after a 42-pitch second inning.

“It’s the big leagues,” Cora said. “Yeah, we’ve got to protect him, but we’ve got to protect the rest of the staff. We were short coming into the game.”

Rays opener Matt Wiser, who pitched only the first inning, was followed by Josh Fleming, who gave up four runs in three innings before leaving the game with right oblique tightness.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: 3B Rafael Devers, who has missed three games with lower back pain, might start Tuesday night. … RHP Nathan Eovaldi (low back inflammation) probably will pitch against the Yankees on Friday night in his first major league start since June 8. … RHP Garrett Whitlock (right hip inflammation) will pitch in another rehab game Tuesday in the hopes of rejoining the Red Sox this weekend. … C Kevin Plawecki was placed on the COVID-19-related IL and C Connor Wong was recalled from Triple-A Worcester.

Rays: SS Wander Franco (broken hamate bone) will have surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss five to eight weeks. … CF Kevin Kiermaier (hip) will visit a specialist after the All-Star break to determine whether surgery will be necessary. … 2B Brandon Lowe (low back discomfort) will play the next three days for Triple-A Durham before being re-evaluated for his return to the roster for the first time since May 16.

UP NEXT

Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will make his season debut Tuesday night after missing the first half of the season with a right rib stress fracture. Cora said Sale could throw as many as 85 pitches based on his buildup in rehab starts. “The fact that we’re thinking about him pitching on Sunday – that tells you a lot,” Cora said. Corey Kluber (4-5, 3.62 ERA) will pitch for the Rays.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).