Springs pitches 6 shutout innings, Rays beat Blue Jays 4-2

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO – Jeffrey Springs pitched six shutout innings to win for the fifth time in six decisions, Randy Arozarena drove in two runs and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2 in a doubleheader opener Tuesday to stop a three-game losing streak.

Yandy Diaz had three hits and scored twice as the Rays (79-61) leapfrogged Toronto (79-62) and moved a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays. Tampa Bay tied Seattle (79-61) for the first of the three AL wild cards.

Springs (8-4) allowed three hits, all singles, extending his scoreless innings streak to 16 2/3. He struck out five and walked two.

“I felt good,” Springs said. “From early on, I felt like all three pitches were working, able to attack the strike zone early, keep the pitch count down.”

Shawn Armstrong allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings, and Pete Fairbanks got four outs for his seventh save in as many chances.

Toronto put runners at first and second with one out in the ninth but Fairbanks struck out Vladirmir Guerrero Jr. and retired Bo Bichette on a groundout that ended an 11-pitch at-bat.

“That was a pretty epic battle,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I’m glad that we got the ground ball.”

Bichette, whose two-run homer in the eighth inning helped Toronto win 3-2 Monday, went 2 for 5 and scored a run.

All-Star right-hander Alek Manoah, scheduled to start for Toronto, was scratched with a stomach illness. Instead, the Blue Jays opened with right-hander Julian Merryweather before turning to right-hander Mitch White, who was called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday as the 29th man.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Manoah was well enough to start Game 2.

“He’s feeling fine,” Schneider said between games. “I expect a normal outing for him.”

Rays right-hander Yonny Chirinos was added as the 29th man for the doubleheader and was to start Game 2.

Tampa Bay opened the scoring against Merryweather when Arozarena beat out a double-play grounder as Diaz scored.

The Rays added three more against White in the third. Arozarena hit into a run-scoring forceout, David Peralta hit a sacrifice fly and, running on the pitch, Arozarena scored from first on Manuel Margot‘s ground single to left, taking advantage of some inattention and a high throw from left fielder Teoscar Hernandez.

“Sometimes he’s his own third-base coach, and manager, and he’s invisible,” Cash said of Arozarena.

Schneider said the Blue Jays need to be better prepared to react to Tampa Bay’s aggressive style.

“That’s how they play and you have to try to stay ahead of it,” Schneider said. “Hopefully people learn from it and it doesn’t happen again.”

Fairbanks, who watched Arozarena’s dash on the weight room TV, called it “incredible.”

“He will turn nothing into something and when it happens, it’s fascinating to watch,” Fairbanks said.

Making his first start this season, Merryweather (0-3) gave up one run and two hits in one inning. White allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings, matching his longest outing of 2022.

Toronto didn’t advance a runner to scoring position until the fifth, when Alejandro Kirk and Matt Chapman walked, but Danny Jansen stranded both with a popout.

Kirk and Chapman drove in runs against Armstrong as the Blue Jays halved the deficit in the eighth, but Fairbanks came on and retired Jansen to end the rally.

“Pete came in and picked us up in a big way,” Cash said.

ROSTER MOVES

Rays: Tampa Bay returned RHP Cooper Criswell to Triple-A Durham and recalled LHP Josh Fleming from the taxi squad.

STRUGGLING WITH SOUTHPAWS

The Blue Jays are 11-18 when their opponent starts a left-handed pitcher.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (back) was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game.

UP NEXT

RHP Ross Stripling (7-4, 3.03) starts for Toronto Wednesday night. RHP Drew Rasmussen (10-4, 2.57) goes for the Rays.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.