Arozarena’s early homer sends Rays past skidding Yankees 3-1

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Randy Arozarena hit a three-run homer off Nestor Cortes in the first inning and the Tampa Bay staff made it stand up, leading the Rays over the skidding New York Yankees 3-1 Tuesday night.

Starter Jeffrey Springs (5-3) and four relievers combined on a four-hitter, and the crowd of 41,083 at Yankee Stadium booed their AL East leaders at times.

The Yankees have lost 11 of 13 and are 8-17 since reaching the All-Star break at 64-28.

“Yeah, we’re all frustrated but you can’t let the frustration get in your way of preparing and go every night,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “We got a few guys that are in a rut. We got to prepare and get ready and fight our way of it. It’s part of it and it’s no fun when you’re going through it, but that’s where we are right now.”

Tampa Bay got only four hits while winning its fourth straight and closing within nine games of the Yankees – New York’s smallest margin since also being nine ahead on June 15. The Rays trailed by 15 1/2 games after getting swept at Cincinnati July 8-10.

“Wins in this ballpark against this team, that can elevate you a little bit and make you feel that much better,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

New York lost its fifth straight series and was held to three runs or less for the seventh straight game.

“It’s better to have this happen now in August than the first week of playoffs or near the end of the year when you’re getting into the playoffs,” New York slugger Aaron Judge said.

New York avoided being blanked in three straight games for the first time since 2016 when Andrew Benintendi tripled in the fifth and scored on a fielding error by third baseman Yandy Diaz on a grounder by Miguel Andujar.

Some fans booed when Andujar struck out to end the seventh with Josh Donaldson on third, and there were more when Jose Trevino struck out to end the game.

Diaz and Issac Paredes started the game with singles. One out later, Arozarena gave the Rays a 3-0 lead by lifting a 1-1 fastball into the left field seats for his 16th homer. It was Arozarena’s fourth homer in six games after the right fielder went homerless in 16 straight games.

“I was looking for a pitch to connect on,” Arozarena said through a translator. “I was hoping to hit a home run, that’s kind of what I was looking for but I’m mostly just happy we got the victory.”

Cortes (9-4) allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings. He struck out three, walked none and retired 19 of his final 21 hitters.

“I think we’re going to turn it around soon,” Cortes said. “I don’t know when, but this team is capable of doing big things and obviously we showed it the first half.”

Springs got 10 outs on the ground and held New York to one run and two hits in five innings.

“It’s good to see,” Cash said. “Our pitching has been outstanding the last two games here.”

Pete Fairbanks pitched a perfect sixth, Brooks Raley got the first two outs of the seventh after Donaldson singled and Shawn Armstrong got the next three outs.

Jason Adam needed four pitches to retire Judge with a runner on to end the eighth.

Adam also fanned two in a perfect ninth for his seventh save.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: SS Wander Franco (right hamate bone) went 0 for 2 as the designated hitter for Triple-A Durham. He was expected to play five innings but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth due to general soreness in the hand and could play again Wednesday

Yankees: INF DJ LeMahieu (right big toe) missed his third straight game. He is day-to-day but a decision on putting him on the injured list could come Wednesday or Thursday. . OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton (Achilles tendon) could begin a rehab assignment in the next few days. . RHP Clay Holmes, who last pitched Friday, said after the game he is dealing with some back tightness. . OF Harrison Bader (right foot plantar fasciitis) said he is hoping to find out soon if his walking boot can come off.

UP NEXT:

Tampa Bay RHP Corey Kluber (7-7, 4.40 ERA) opposes New York RHP Domingo German (1-2, 4.18) on Wednesday night.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.