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Rays have lots to be happy about after beating Red Sox again

Corey Kluber is sharp, Randy Arozarena and Yandy Diaz lead the offense, and Ji-Man Choi provides the highlight moment.
Rays players including Ji-Man Choi, center, celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox Wednesday at Fenway Park.
Rays players including Ji-Man Choi, center, celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox Wednesday at Fenway Park. [ MARY SCHWALM | AP ]
Published Jul. 7|Updated Jul. 7

BOSTON — There was plenty to smile over, discuss and be happy about in the Rays’ clubhouse after Wednesday’s 7-1 victory over the Red Sox.

Veteran Corey Kluber delivered one of his best starts of the year, holding the potent Boston lineup to three hits over six shutout innings.

Randy Arozarena and Yandy Diaz led the way as the offense flexed more muscle, scoring at least six runs for the fifth time in six games after doing so just four times in their previous 24.

And the Rays were pleased with a second straight series win over an American League East opponent, moving past the Blue Jays into a second-place tie with the Red Sox at 45-37.

“We’re all doing our part to try and to help the team,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “We had a good series in Toronto, and we had a really good series here. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

There also were some reasons to laugh, none more so than Arozarena’s answer when asked what he thought after his third-inning double led to 260-pounder Ji-Man Choi scoring from first base: “Like an elephant walking with wet sandals.”

Choi was among several Rays playfully huddled around Arozarena when he answered, and Navarro translated, with laughter seemingly breaking out in several languages.

Choi’s interpreter, Daniel Park, relayed the answer in Korean. Choi chuckled, noting, “I’m heavy,” and saying Arozarena should be grateful that Choi got him an extra RBI.

Manager Kevin Cash noted after Saturday’s doubleheader sweep in Toronto that it was good to see the players smiling again after they staggered through a 12-17 stretch, and the good times have continued.

Kluber has been inconsistent, offsetting a mostly solid season with some rough outings, including lasting only three innings Friday in Toronto to run his losing streak to three.

But the 36-year-old veteran, who next week will reach the impressive career milestone of 10 years of major-league service, bounced back quite well Wednesday.

He allowed only the three hits, didn’t walk any batters, struck out five and retired his last 11. He credited catcher Francisco Mejia for calling a good game that avoided any patterns, noted the play of the defense and allowed that there were a couple times where he “was able to execute some pitches.”

His teammates were more effusive.

“He was commanding his pitches well, locating well, hitting the corners exactly where he wanted to,” Mejia said via Navarro. “I think it’s one of the best outings that he’s had this year.”

Added Cash: ‘’It looked like he was executing, and he was doing what he wanted to.”

Arozarena continued his recent run of better games, delivering the two-run double and hitting a 105.5 mph, 390-foot homer to the right of centerfield in the ninth. He also made a diving catch in left.

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Hits in five of his last six games seems like a hot streak. “I’m always hot,” Arozarena countered. “It’s just that I get cold sometimes.”

Diaz has been sizzling, reaching base four times Wednesday as he extended his career-best hitting streak to 11 games, during which he is 20-for-41 (.488).

One of his better stretches? “The best,” Diaz said via Navarro.

“He’s really doing a lot of special things for us,” Cash said. “Every at-bat is a challenge for the pitcher because he doesn’t expand (his strike zone), he’s willing to take walks, and if he gets into a hitter’s count, he can hit some hard line drives all over the ballpark.”

There was more to be pleased with as Josh Lowe, moved to the leadoff spot, had two doubles; Wander Franco and Kevin Kiermaier knocked in runs; the Rays drew a season-high nine walks and scored five of their runs with two outs.

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