San Diego – The Tampa Bay Rays are unanimous in their praise of Randy Arozarena, who is living up to his nickname, “The Cuban Rocket.” Arozarena homered for the third straight game and Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Perez also went deep for the Rays, who beat the New York Yankees 8-4 Wednesday night to move within one victory of reaching the AL Championship Series for the first time in 12 years.
“He’s the best player on the planet,” Kiermaier said. “He’s incredible. He’s very unique in so many ways. Everyone loves him. He’s the man. What he’s doing is incredible.” Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and was charged with the loss Tanaka gave up five runs and exited in the fifth inning of his second 2020 postseason appearance as the Yankees were pushed to the brink of elimination in the best-of-five contest played at San Diego’s Petco Park to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“There’s only frustration. I was in better shape than in my previous outing,” Tanaka said. “I’m just frustrated that I couldn’t produce results tonight since I felt my condition had improved.
The right-hander yielded eight hits and two home runs, a pivotal three-run shot to Kiermaier in the fourth and Arozarena’s leadoff blast in the fifth, before he was given the hook with the Yankees trailing 5-1.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Game 3 might have played out differently had Tanaka not walked Willy Adames in the fourth on a questionable pitch at the bottom of the zone, right before Kiermaier crushed the first ball he saw on the next play.
“They had some really competitive at-bats against him,” Boone said. “I thought it looked like he made some pitches in some big spots to get out of it. I thought we almost had the strike-him-out, throw-him-out ahead of the Kiermaier homer.” “It looked real close to me,” Boone said. “I haven’t gone and looked at it yet. Obviously a big pitch there. And then the homer by Kiermaier really hurt.” Rays Japanese designated hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo went hitless with one strikeout in five at-bats, flying out and popping out when he faced Tanaka in the second and third.
New York slugger Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer off Shane McClanahan to center field in the eighth inning to become the first player with a home run in each of his team’s first five games of a single postseason. Stanton has six homers and 13 RBIs in those five games. McClanahan made his major league debut in Game 1 on Monday night.
Arozarena, a 25-year-old rookie from Havana, is having a breakout postseason. He homered off Gerrit Cole in the first inning of Game 1, a 9-3 Yankees win, and off rookie Deivi Garcia in the first inning of Game 2, a 7-5 Rays win.
The Rays took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Division Series. Game 4 is Thursday night at Petco Park, which has yielded 16 home runs in three games — nine by Tampa Bay.
The Rays are looking to advance out of the ALDS for just the second time. They reached the 2008 World Series before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Arozarena went 3-for-4 with a walk. He leads all players in the postseason with 12 hits in five games. He went hitless in five postseason plate appearances in 2019 for St. Louis, which traded him to Tampa Bay in January.
On Tuesday night, Rays starter Tyler Glasnow called Arozarena “the best baseball player on earth right now. What he’s doing is phenomenal.” Tanaka said Arozarena has an unwavering approach at the plate.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen before where a guy punishes every single mistake,” Tanaka. “We can’t get away with anything against him right now. It’s been pretty frustrating.” Charlie Morton got the win after holding the Yankees to two runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked two in winning his fifth straight postseason decision.
Athletics 9, Astros 7
In Los Angeles, Chad Pinder tied the score with a three-run homer in the seventh inning, Sean Murphy hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the eighth and Oakland rallied past Houston to avoid elimination in their AL Division Series.
The Astros lead the best-of-five set 2-1 and can advance to their fourth straight AL Championship Series with a victory in Game 4 on Thursday.
Braves 2, Marlins 0
In Houston, rookie right-hander Ian Anderson pitched like a poised veteran, right fielder Nick Markakis made a nifty defensive play late and Atlanta threw another playoff shutout in beating Miami for a 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series.
The Braves have tossed three shutouts in four games this postseason. Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson both homered for the second straight day, putting Atlanta one win away from a sweep in the best-of-five matchup.
The 22-year-old Anderson, who made his major league debut in late August, scattered three hits and struck out eight over 5⅔ innings. He added to his impressive outing last week in the first round, when he fanned nine in six scoreless innings against Cincinnati Mark Melancon, the fifth Atlanta pitcher, finished the three-hitter for a save.
Dodgers 6 Padres 5
In Arlington, Texas, Cody Bellinger homered and robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a go-ahead shot, and Joe Kelly got the final out with the bases loaded in a tension-filled ninth inning as Los Angeles barely held off San Diego for a 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series.
Kelly retired Eric Hosmer on a routine grounder to earn the save after Dodgers All-Star closer Kenley Jansen wobbled in the ninth. Los Angeles can sweep the best-of-five set from its NL West rival Thursday night and reach the NL Championship Series for the fourth time in five seasons.