Arozarena homers, drives in 2 runs to pace Rays' 5-1 victory over Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Randy Arozarena homered and drove in two runs, celebrating his solo shot by signing autographs for fans after returning to the dugout, to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

“It makes me happy to be able to sign autographs for the kids because you never know, it could be their dream and they can identify with me there,” the All-Star outfielder said through a translator. “Hopefully one day they can make it to the major leagues as well and do the same.”

Right-hander Zack Littell (1-0) allowed four singles over six scoreless innings for the Rays, who've won two straight after losing by six runs to their AL East rivals on opening day.

Arozarena, a first-time All-Star a year ago, had an RBI single off Yusei Kikuchi (0-1) in the third inning, then went deep against the Toronto starter in the fifth.

Littell walked two and struck out six while only allowing just one runner past second base in a 90-pitch outing.

The game was delayed briefly when benches cleared at the end of the seventh inning, after Blue Jays reliever Génesis Cabrera exchanged words with Tampa Bay's José Caballero and shoved the shortstop, who had been tagged out at third base to end the inning.

“I’m just playing baseball… I don’t want any problems with anyone,” Caballero said. “I didn’t want it to go farther than what it was. Unfortunately, he didn’t think the same way.”

Since getting solo homers from Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., George Springer and Cavan Biggio in an 8-2 season-opening win at Tropicana Field, Toronto has been held to just three runs over the next two games — one on them on Springer's second homer.

The Blue Jays gave themselves a chance to get back in the game in the seventh, when Daulton Varsho drew a leadoff walk and Ernie Clement singled off reliever Colin Poche. Biggio's two-out single trimmed Toronto's deficit to 3-1 before Phil Maton came on to get Springer to fly to center to end the threat.

Kikuchi won a career-high 11 games last season, while also posting career highs for innings pitched (167 2/3), strikeouts (181) and ERA (3.86). A pair of two-out walks set the stage for Arozarena to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead with his run-scoring single.

The 32-year-old lefty escaped further damage in the third by getting Curtis Mead to ground into an inning-ending force play with the bases-loaded.

Arozarena's opposite-field homer to right made it 2-0 in the fifth. Caballero's sacrifice fly drove in a third run off Kikuchi, who yielded three runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Cabrera was ejected after shoving Caballero, who drove in a run with a bunt single and continued to run when third baseman Justin Turner threw wildly past first base on the play. Springer ran down the errant throw and threw to shortstop Bo Bichette, who easily tagged Caballero out at third base.

Cabrera, who was backing up third, and Caballero came together and exchanged words before the pitcher shoved the Rays shortstop. Teammates spilled out of each dugout, however no punches were thrown.

“I saw the ball in the bullpen and started running. The coach is waving at me to go to third. When I got to third, I see Bichette had the ball already, so I gave myself up,” Caballero said. "I’m kind of slowing down and Cabrera comes out of nowhere and kind of tags me. But there’s no play, I’m already out.

“I just asked him, why did you push me?” the Rays infielder added. “He didn’t say a word. He just came up to me and pushed me again.”

Cabrera was ejected.

“I will say it was more like the heat of the moment,” Cabrera said through a translator. "I mean, I think we all kind of overreact a little bit. ... He kind of looked at me and I just react. ... It's part of the game sometimes, but it’s over with. It’s where it ends, right there.”

UP NEXT

The AL East rivals conclude the four-game, season-opening series, with right-hander Kevin Gausman, shut down part of spring training due to shoulder fatigue, starting for the Blue Jays. The Rays were undecided on a starter for Sunday.

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