Kluber, Rays top Yanks, AL East gap down to 4; Judge 52nd HR

Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Slugger Giancarlo Stanton and manager Aaron Boone both say the New York Yankees still control their destiny.

Time might be running out for that, however.

Corey Kluber limited the Yankees to a pair of singles over seven shutout innings and the Tampa Bay Rays withstood Aaron Judge‘s 52nd home run, beating New York 2-1 Saturday night to cut their deficit in the AL East to four games.

“”We’re not where we want to be,” Stanton said. “But we’re still in a fine opportunity, so it’s ours for the taking.”

The first-place Yankees, who have seen their 15 1/2-game advantage slip away, have lost six of seven. Tampa Bay blanked them on five hits in the series opener Friday night, a 9-0 loss that Boone called “embarrassing.”

“We have the people to do it,” Boone said about a turnaround. “If we don’t dig ourselves out, you’ll have a great story to write. We’ll going to find out what we’re made of. All the noise, a lot of people out there really mad. What’s our response.”

This was the second of six games between the teams in a 10-day stretch. Yandy Diaz hit a two-run single in the third inning and the Rays made it stand up.

“We’re No. 1 in the league in scoring, amazingly as that is,” Boone said. “So, if we don’t turn this around, that will be the story.”

Judge boosted his major league homer lead with a leadoff drive in the ninth inning off Jason Adam. But Adam retired the next three batters for his eighth save.

The blast kept the Yankees from being shut out for the 13th time this season, and seventh over the last 26 games.

Kluber (10-7) struck out four without a walk as the Rays improved their AL-best record since Aug. 3 to 20-9. It was the first time the 36-year old has thrown a pitch in the seventh inning since his no-hitter for the Yankees on May 19, 2021, at Texas.

“We haven’t really gotten too far ahead of ourselves at this point,” Kluber said. “I think we’ll do our best to continue to be that way.”

Peter Fairbanks had a perfect eighth before Adam closed.

Kluber retired 14 in a row before Aaron Hicks reached on a throwing error by second baseman Jonathan Aranda in the sixth and went to second on Judge’s single.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash sent pitching coach Kyle Snyder to talk with Kluber but didn’t get anyone up in the bullpen.

Kluber then escaped damage by striking out DJ LeMahieu and getting a grounder from Giancarlo Stanton.

“We needed it,” Cash said. “These are big series, big pitches, big moments,” Cash said. “You put a lot of pressure on the bullpen. To be able to send him back out there for one extra inning really helps us moving forward.”

Diaz put the Rays up 2-0 on a two-run single in the third that deflected off Clarke Schmidt (5-4) and into right field. Francisco Mejia and Jose Siri singled to start the inning, and both moved up on Taylor Walls‘ sacrifice bunt.

Schmidt allowed two runs and four hits over 4 1/3 innings.

New York had runners on the corners with one out in the first when Stanton was thrown out trying to move up to second on a pitch in the dirt. The inning ended when Josh Donaldson hit a grounder.

Stanton had his bat demolished when he hit a third-inning grounder off a 90-mph pitch from Kluber.

Yankees prospect Oswald Peraza made his first big league start at shortstop and went 0 for 3. He struck out pinch-hitting during the ninth in his debut Friday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

LF Andrew Benintendi went on the 10-day IL with right wrist inflammation after getting hurt on a swing Friday. Boone said there will be additional tests to narrow down what the injury is.

Rays: SS Wander Franco (right hamate bone-hand soreness) is set to join Triple-A Durham Sunday.

UP NEXT

Yankees: RHP Frankie Montas (4-11) will make his sixth start Sunday since being acquired from Oakland. He is 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA in his first outings.

Rays: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (1-8) will start Sunday or follow an opener.

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

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Adam Hagy/Getty Images
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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, 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 closed 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.

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 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

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.

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).