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Yandy Diaz Hits 2 HRs to Lift Rays Past A's 5-1 in 2019 AL Wild Card Game

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2019

Tampa Bay Rays' Yandy Diaz, right, is congratulated by Tommy Pham after hitting a solo home run against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of an American League wild-card baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays used a strong start to go into RingCentral Coliseum and pull out a 5-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics in the 2019 American League Wild Card Game on Wednesday night.

Tampa Bay first baseman Yandy Diaz provided his team with an early 1-0 lead by becoming the first player in franchise history to lead off a postseason game with a home run. He didn't stop there, though, as he added another solo shot in the top of the third.

It marks the Rays' first trip to the American League Division Series since 2013, which was also their most recent playoff appearance. They have reached the AL Championship Series just once in franchise history, back in 2008 when they made a run to the World Series.

     

Notable Performances 

Tampa Bay

1B Yandy Diaz: 3-for-4, two home runs, two RBI

RF Avisail Garcia: 1-for-4, one home run, two RBI

DH Tommy Pham: 2-for-4, one home run, one RBI

SP Charlie Morton: 5.0 innings, five hits, one run (zero earned), three walks and four strikeouts

RP Nick Anderson: 1.1 innings, one hit, zero runs, zero walks and four strikeouts


     

Oakland

SP Sean Manaea: 2.0 innings, four hits (three home runs), four runs, zero walks and five strikeouts

RP Yusmeiro Petit: 2.2 innings, two hits (one home run), one run, zero walks and two strikeouts

RP Jesus Luzardo: 3.0 innings, one hit, zero runs, two walks and four strikeouts

3B Matt Chapman: 1-for-3, one walk

     

Long Balls Power Rays to Victory

Tampa Bay hitters ranked 21st in all of baseball in home runs during the regular season. Oakland pitchers gave up the sixth-fewest dingers.

Oddly enough, the Rays still managed to get the best of the spacious RingCentral Coliseum.

Just five pitches into the game, Diaz snuck one over the right-field wall:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Yandy Diaz wasting no time ✌️ That’s the first postseason leadoff HR in Rays history. https://t.co/plxYwllI7I

Avisail Garcia gave Tampa Bay some breathing room by playing add-on with a two-run blast to center in the second:

MLB Stats @MLBStats

At 115.2 MPH, Avisaíl García's HR was the hardest hit by a Ray in the Statcast era! https://t.co/spDEL980zo

One inning later, Diaz, who entered the 2019 season with just one home run in 88 MLB games, went opposite field once again...to nearly the identical spot as his first-inning shot:

Bleacher Report MLB @BR_MLB

Yandy Diaz in 2017-2018 season: 1 HR Today: 2 HRs (via @MLB) https://t.co/rX0REz456G

Andrew Simon @AndrewSimonMLB

Yandy Diaz found his spot at the Oakland Coliseum. https://t.co/JTlcYKQ2Y6

According to MLB Stats, Diaz became just the fifth Rays player to have a multi-homer game during the postseason and the first to do so in a winner-take-all contest. Not bad for someone who had played in just one big-league game since July 22.

On the other side, Manaea, who made just five starts during the regular season after undergoing shoulder surgery in September 2018, must have been wondering what was going on. While facing 109 batters in 29.2 innings last month, he allowed just three home runs. He matched that total through the first 10 batters on Wednesday night:

David Lombardi @LombardiHimself

Sean Manaea gave up as many home runs through 10 batters (3) as he gave up all regular season (3).

And with that, his night came to an early end. But that didn't stop the Rays' power surge:

MLB @MLB

The Rays are raking, Pham. 💪 https://t.co/KpniPQjl7t

For a team that averaged just 1.3 dingers over the course of a 162-game season, a four-homer game could not have come at a better time.

       

Big-Game Morton Comes Up Clutch Again

The Rays have 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell on their roster, but facing a win-or-go-home game on the road, manager Kevin Cash opted to go with someone with experience: Charlie Morton.

During his time with the Houston Astros, Morton made a pair of appearances in winner-take-all postseason games. He threw five shutout innings against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, and he later closed out Game 7 of the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with four innings of two-hit, one-run baseball. He was the winning pitcher both times.

The 35-year-old right-hander was wearing a different uniform on Wednesday, but he was still more than up for the task.

Morton, who went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA during his first season in Tampa Bay, was far from dominant. But the two-time All-Star was able to make pitches when he needed to. He wiggled off the hook in both the first and the fourth innings.

The only run he surrendered came by way of a three-base error in the third.

Kevin Burkhardt @kevinburkhardt

Charlie Morton is a beast!! #Rays #WildCardGame

Jessica Kleinschmidt @KleinschmidtJD

Ahem *taps mic* Hi -- hi yes hello Charlie Morton is really good.

Having to pitch out of trouble on multiple occasions took its toll on Morton's pitch count (94 on the night) and forced him out of the game after five innings. By that point, though, he had done enough to put his team in position to advance.

     

What's Next

Tampa Bay will take on the AL West champion Houston Astros in the AL Division Series. Games 1 and 2 will be played in Houston on Friday and Saturday, respectively, with Game 3 to follow in St. Petersburg on Monday.

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