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Rays’ Randy Arozarena leads way against Orioles again

The outfielder homers twice to continue his dominance of Baltimore pitching, and Kevin Kiermaier adds three hits.
The Rays' Randy Arozarena is congratulated by Ji-Man Choi after hitting a two-run homer against the Orioles during the first inning Saturday.
The Rays' Randy Arozarena is congratulated by Ji-Man Choi after hitting a two-run homer against the Orioles during the first inning Saturday. [ GAIL BURTON | Associated Press ]
Published May 22|Updated May 22

BALTIMORE — Randy Arozarena insists there’s nothing special about facing the Orioles, no hidden agenda or trade secrets that have led to his extraordinary success.

Maybe it’s luck, he said. A payoff for the hard work and preparation he does. Or the built-in motivation of playing a division rival.

“I respect any team,’’ he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “When I’m in the box, I try to just keep my mind the same. It doesn’t matter who’s (out) there, if it’s the Orioles or not.’’

Whatever it is, the Rays will take it.

Arozarena continued his Baltimore bashing on Saturday, hitting two home runs to lead the Rays to a much-needed 6-1 bounce-back victory.

Jeffrey Springs lent a hand as well, with the best of his five impressive outings since moving into the rotation. The lefty allowed one hit over a career-high 5⅔ innings, walking four and striking out seven while throwing 80 pitches.

So did Kevin Kiermaier, who moved into the leadoff spot and flexed some more muscle. He homered — giving him a team co-leading five for the season — and singled twice, marking the first time in his career he had three straight three-hit games.

The Rays (24-16) needed the win to move past the disappointment of Friday night, when they blew three leads and lost 8-6 in 13 innings. The only downside Saturday was that third baseman Yandy Diaz left the game after scoring a run in the sixth due to a left shoulder strain. He is considered day to day.

The Rays' Kevin Kiermaier watches his single against the Orioles during the sixth inning.
The Rays' Kevin Kiermaier watches his single against the Orioles during the sixth inning. [ GAIL BURTON | Associated Press ]

In 23 career games against the Orioles, Arozarena is hitting .400 (36-for-90) with 11 home runs (of 32 total in regular-season play), including three multihomer games, and 25 RBIs. And he especially likes swinging at Camden Yards, where he has hit seven homers in 12 games.

“I think he hits with his eyes closed against the Orioles,’’ Diaz said, via Navarro.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said he couldn’t explain Arozarena’s dominance against one team. “I really don’t know,’’ he said. “But we’ll take it right now because we needed a good offensive performance, and he gave us one.’’

And then some, Kiermaier said.

“Randy’s en fuego, he’s on fire,’’ Kiermaier said. “He’s a guy when he gets hot, he’s shown that he can be the best player on the planet. And he’s as locked in as I’ve seen him right now. So hopefully he can continue that as well.’'

Kiermaier is on a pretty good roll himself but still was surprised when he learned he was hitting leadoff for the first time this season. And then there was the matter of the words of encouragement he got from Cash.

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“Let me tell you what his message was to me right before the game,’' Kiermaier said. “Our two-time manager of the year. Quote, unquote: ‘Don’t make me look stupid.’ I strike out my first at-bat, I’m like, ‘Oh boy, well, I’m going to hear (about) this.’ But it ended up working out.’'

Springs makes what he’s doing look easy and insists it’s just a matter of taking the same basic approach he used as a reliever.

“Just trying to keep it as simple as possible and continuing to do things that I’ve done in the bullpen that have allowed me to have success — throwing the ball over the plate and attacking hitters,” he said.

Cash not only likes what Springs is doing but how he is doing it.

“His willingness to throw the ball over the plate early, from pitch one, helps him a lot,’' Cash said. “I think every pitch he throws, until it’s like maybe an 0-2 (count), is with strike intent. ... It’s one thing to pound (that message) in. It’s one thing to go out and do it. He’s doing it.”

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