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Montas makes triumphant return to New York as Reds beat Yankees 8-4 to complete 3-game sweep

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NEW YORK (AP) — Frankie Montas made a triumphant return to Yankee Stadium, Nick Martini, Jonathan India and Spencer Steer homered and the Cincinnati Reds completed a three-game sweep of reeling New York with an 8-4 victory Thursday.

“Everybody knows what I can do when I’m healthy,” Montas said.

Steer opened a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning with a three-run, opposite-field homer to right off Marcus Stroman (7-4). Jake Fraley boosted the advantage to 8-2 with a bases-loaded triple in the seventh against Jake Cousins as Cincinnati (42-45) became the first NL team to sweep a regular-season interleague series in the Bronx.

New York (54-35) has lost 13 of 17 games and 14 of 19 after a 49-21 start.

“You go back at all the past World Series champions, they’ve always hit a little skid at some point,” Yankees captain Aaron Judge said. “That’s what kind of defines a team is how we respond out of this.”

Montas (4-6) ended a four-start winless streak, taking a shutout into the fifth and allowing two runs, four hits and three walks in five-plus innings.

New York’s Ben Rice, moved into the leadoff spot 15 games into his major league career, hit his first big league homer with a 407-foot drive into the Judge’s Chambers in the right-field seats in the fifth. The ball was caught by the VanDerVolgen family from the Albany area, a group of six that had been upgraded from the second deck just before the game. They exchanged the home run ball for balls Rice autographed in the clubhouse.

Rice had fantasized about what the home run would be like.

“It’s way cooler to actually do it than just dream about it,” he said.

Austin Wells homered leading off the fifth and Juan Soto added his 21st homer, a two-run drive against Nick Martinez in the seventh.

A 31-year-old right-hander, Montas had an unsuccessful stint with the Yankees. Acquired from Oakland at the 2022 trade deadline, Montas struggled to a 6.35 ERA over eight starts in a season cut short by right shoulder inflammation. He had surgery to repair the labrum on Feb. 15 last year and made his only appearance of the season on the final weekend.

Montas became a free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Reds that guaranteed $16 million and became their opening-day starter. Backup catcher Luke Maile was behind the plate for his eighth straight start.

Stroman gave up five runs and five hits in five innings.

Will Benson made a leaping catch with his glove at the top of the center-field wall in the first to rob Soto, who had gone into a home run trot.

Martini put the Reds ahead in the second when he drove a cutter off the top of the wall in right-center and into the Yankees bullpen for his fifth home run this season. India, who had three hits after starting the series 0 for 7, put a sinker over the center of the plate into the left-field seats in the third. Steer added his three-run shot in the fifth.

After the Yankees closed to 5-2, shortstop Elly De La Cruz made a fine sidearm throw to get Alex Verdugo at the plate trying to score on Anthony Volpe’s sixth-inning grounder.

Before the game, the Yankees marked the 85th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech by showing a video clip that included current players reading his words. Five people afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease were on the field near home plate, including Major League Baseball’s Sarah Langs.

Reds catcher Austin Wynns cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Louisville.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: INF Jon Berti (strained left calf) will accompany the team on its upcoming trip, remain at the minor league facility in Tampa, Florida, and could be ready for a rehab assignment around the time of the All-Star break. … RHP Scott Effross (Tommy John surgery) pitched a hitless inning with a walk and a strikeout for Triple-A Scranton/Wikes-Barre on Wednesday night in his fifth rehab outing.

UP NEXT

Reds: RHP Carson Spiers (2-1, 3.11 ERA) will be on the mound for Friday’s homestand opener against Detroit RHP Reese Olson (2-8, 3.32).

Yankees: LHP Nestor Cortes (4-7, 3.51 ERA) starts Friday night’s series opener against Boston RHP Tanner Houck (7-6, 2.67).

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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