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Dodgers beat Rays but lose reliever Pedro Baez to leg injury

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – MAY 21: David Freese #25 of the Los Angeles Dodgers scores on a sacrifice fly by Justin Turner in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 21, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Austin Barnes watches his RBI single off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jalen Beeks during the fourth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Sound The gallery will resume in seconds ST. PETERSBURG, FL – MAY 21: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the third inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 21, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Rays opening pitcher Hunter Wood delivers to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger follows through on a single off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jalen Beeks during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy grounds out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – MAY 21: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by Enrique Hernandez #14 after scoring in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 21, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jalen Beeks reacts as he leaves the mound after retiring the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias sits in the bullpen during the second inning of the team’s baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Urias was reinstated Tuesday from administrative leave by Major League Baseball. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tucked away in a corner of the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays are baseball’s innovators, straining to overcome their small-market limitations with a willingness to try anything.
Like “openers” – the Rays have used the new-age pitching strategy 14 times in their first 45 games this season, to largely good effect.
The Dodgers have no need for such creativity these days.
Clayton Kershaw took a shutout into the seventh inning Tuesday night as the Dodgers beat the Rays 7-3 in the first half of a two-game interleague series.
It was just the latest example of the Dodgers’ rotation strong-arming the opposition.
Over 23 games since April 25, Dodgers starting pitchers have been the best in baseball with a 2.09 ERA (34 earned runs in 146-2/3 innings), 152 strikeouts and only 19 walks. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers have won 17 of those games.
“Well, Mr. Ryu’s on a pretty good hot streak right now so that definitely helps,” Kershaw said, referring to Hyun-Jin Ryu’s current 31-inning scoreless streak. “I think we’ve got really good starting pitching. That’s a pretty good streak obviously. It’s not going to go perfectly every time. But we believe we can keep that up, for sure.”
Kershaw’s first start at Tropicana Field was a fresh-squeezed success. He struck out six of the first nine Rays batters in the game and matched his season-high with eight strikeouts before leaving with two runners on and one out in the seventh.
“He throws a ton of strikes,” Rays outfielder Tommy Pham said. “He works the corners. He works in, down, up and away. You see very little on the middle part of the plate when you face him.
“Just imagine him with his (velocity). Not saying that he’s not pitching well. But that just shows you how good he is.”
It was nearly the eighth scoreless start by a Dodgers pitcher in their past 12 games. But Rays shortstop Willy Adames drilled a ball back at reliever Pedro Baez. The ball came off Adames’ bat at 103 mph and hit Baez flush in the right leg, just to the outside of his knee.
Baez went down on the mound as the ball caromed into foul territory, allowing the Rays’ first run to score. Baez left the game with the help of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and trainer Andrew Hauser, Baez barely able to put weight on his right leg as he limped off the field.
X-rays on Baez’s leg were negative — a surprise to most who heard the loud crack upon contact.
“Yeah, I definitely thought there was a fracture because it hit so hard,” Baez said through an interpreter. “But luckily the X-rays came back negative. Now it’s waiting for the day-to-day process to see how I feel.”
“It was loud,” Kershaw said. “Petey’s got strong bones, I guess.”
Roberts said Baez would not be available Wednesday. The Dodgers are off Thursday.
“Just where it hit him and how it ricocheted back to the dugout, yeah, I was holding my breath,” Roberts said.
“We have the off day coming. So we have a couple days to assess where Petey’s at.”
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Adames’ damaging comebacker was the middle shot of five consecutive hits by the Rays that produced three runs but wasn’t enough to match a productive night by the Dodgers’ offense. The Dodgers were 5 for 17 with runners in scoring position — a number startling for its volume more than the success rate.
To combat the Rays’ pitching misdirection, Roberts constructed his lineup with military precision – it went left-right, left-right.
They touched nominal starter Hunter Wood (right-handed) for a run in the first inning when right fielder Avisail Garcia ran right through Justin Turner’s single, allowing Max Muncy to score from first on the error.
Then they put up five runs against the delayed starter Jalen Beeks (left-handed).
David Freese came off the bench to double and score a run in the third. Austin Barnes drove in a run in the fourth. And a three-run burst in the seventh sent Kershaw to the mound for his last inning with a 6-0 lead. Kiké Hernandez, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson drove in the runs with three consecutive singles.
The late-inning highlight came in the bottom of the eighth when Kevin Kiermaier split the left-center field gap with a drive that went to the wall. Alex Verdugo ran it down and threw from the warning track to shortstop Corey Seager, covering third base. Seager slapped a tag on Kiermaier’s leg as the Rays pinch-hitter dove for the base.
“I know he’s pretty fast so I tried to get the ball quick,” Verdugo said. “I saw that he was being aggressive and taking third. I really just tried to give myself the best chance of getting him out.”
Kiermaier was the the Rays’ last baserunner in the game.
 

. @willya02 gets the @RaysBaseball on the board with an RBI, but Pedro Báez takes a hard shot to the knee that forces him to exit the game. Hoping for the best for Pedro.
Catch the @RaysBaseball this year on FOX Sports Sun
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