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.

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

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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).