St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Randy Arozarena is excited to be facing his original team for the first time, especially the way he and the Tampa Bay Rays are beginning to swing the bats.
The 2021 AL Rookie of the Year had three hits and tied a career best with four RBIs, helping the Rays post season highs for runs and hits in an 11-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night.
“We did a tremendous job. Everyone produced,” Arozarena said through a translator. “It’s good to watch.”
“Hopefully we can keep playing like we played today,” the 27-year-old outfielder said. “But it’s a tough game. You can’t always have good games like we had today.”
Arozarena was a St. Louis prospect with 19 games of major league experience when he was obtained from the Cardinals in a January 2020 trade.
The native of Cuba had an RBI double in the first inning and a two-run single in the seventh to pace an 18-hit outburst. After a slow start to the season, Arozarena is batting .353 with three doubles, four homers and 16 RBIs in his last 17 games.
“I think I’ve been a little more focused these last few games,” he added. “I’ve spent a little more time with the hitting coaches and working.”
Veteran catcher Yadier Molina pitched a scoreless eighth for St. Louis, entering to cheers from red-clad Cardinals fans in a crowd of 12,906. He received a standing ovation when he struck out pinch-hitter Isaac Paredes.
Molina, who removed his cap and waved to fans on his way back to the dugout, gave up a pair of singles and threw strikes on 13 of 20 pitches. He kept the ball he used to get his first career strikeout.
“That one goes in my house,” he said after facing five batters in his second outing.
Vidal Bruján had three RBIs, and Ji-Man Choi and Harold Ramírez drove in two runs apiece for Tampa Bay. All nine starters hit safely for the first time since Aug. 18, 2021, against Baltimore, and Manuel Margot had four hits and was on base five times.
Corey Kluber (3-2) shut down the Cardinals for five innings before fading quickly in the sixth. St. Louis loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles, including Paul Goldschmidt’s hit through the middle that extended the slugger’s career-best on-base streak to 44 games.
Tyler O’Neill, who had a solo homer off Kluber in the fourth, chased the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner with a two-run single that trimmed the Cardinals’ deficit to 5-3.
The Rays escaped further damage, with reliever Jason Adam getting Brendan Donovan to ground into a double play and Juan Yepez to fly out at the wall in left field.
Choi, Arozarena and Bruján had RBI doubles in the first off left-hander Packy Naughton (0-2). Ramírez doubled off reliever Johan Oviedo in the second, driving in the final run charged to the Cardinals starter.
Naughton pitched one time through Tampa Bay’s lineup, allowing four runs and five hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Kluber, meanwhile, yielded three runs and six hits in five-plus innings. He walked one and struck out five.
Cardinals: Nolan Arenado was not in the lineup after being hit by a pitch in the right knee during the 10th inning of Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Rays. The Gold Glove third baseman said he expects to play Thursday.
The finale of a three-game series, with lefty Shane McClanahan (6-2, 2.10 ERA) starting for the Rays. The Cardinals had not announced a starting pitcher.