Rays Blast Four Homers, Dominate Oakland To Advance To ALDS

Rays Power Way To ALDS

Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate after defeating the Oakland Athletics in an American League wild-card baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Yandy Diaz hit a pair of homers and Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham also homered as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Oakland Athletics 5-1 to advance to the American League Division Series.

Diaz led the game off with an opposite field homer giving Charlie Morton an early 1-0 lead. Avisail Garcia extended the lead to 3-1 belting a 2-run homer to straight away center. Diaz extended the lead to 4-1 in the top of the third hitting his second homer. Tommy Pham finished the scoring for Tampa Bay homering off of Yusmeiro Petit in the fifth.

Charlie Morton did not have his best arsenal with him but delivered five innings allowing just an unearned run. He allowed five hits while striking out four and walking three. He threw 94 pitches with 56 for strikes.

In picking up the win, Morton becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to earn the win in three winner-take-all playoff games.

While Morton may not have had his best stuff, the Rays relief trio of Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, and Emilio Pagan certainly did. The trio combined to deliver four scoreless innings allowing three hits while striking out eight and walking none.

Castillo, Anderson, and Pagan all made their postseason debuts and none seemed phased by the moment. Castillo worked two scoreless frames allowing two hits while striking out three. Nick Anderson allowed a leadoff single to Matt Olson and struck out the next four batters he faced before turning the ball over to Emilio Pagan. Pagan, facing his former team, retired Josh Phegley on a groundout for the second out and struck out Marcus Semien to end the game.

Sean Manaea entered the game with a 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA in his return from shoulder surgery. He had only allowed three homers in 29.2-innings of work. The Rays hit three homers against him in his two innings of work.

Oakland had a baserunner in every inning but the ninth but were stifled on double play balls in the second and fifth. The only run the A’s were able to cobble against Charlie Morton came in the third inning when Marcus Semien grounded to third baseman Mike Brosseau who had just moved from second base. His throw skipped past Yandy Diaz and Semien made his way to third base. He scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ramon Laureano. Oakland finished the game 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

Oakland now falls to 0-9 in winner-take-all games dating back to the 2000 ALDS against the New York Yankees.

Diaz’s Delivers With Two Homers:

Yandy Diaz fouled a ball off his left foot against the Boston Red Sox on July 22nd. At first the injury was diagnosed as a bone bruise, but when Diaz experienced pain while working out a Tropicana Field in early August he headed for a CT scan that revealed a hairline fracture. The injury knocked him out for nearly the remainder of the season, but he returned for the final game of the regular season against the Toronto Blue Jays.

He finished the game 0-for-3 but did hit balls at 101.5 mph and 107.3 mph. It was thought that Kevin Cash would only insert Diaz into the lineup as a designated hitter or utilize him as a pinch hitter later in the game. With that, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Diaz’s name at the top of the lineup and playing at first base.

“He probably caught us off guard a little bit with how quickly he [Diaz] turned around over the last five, six days. But we’re confident that that’s a presence, especially a big bat against left-handed pitching.” Cash told reporters on his decision to start Diaz. “He showed enough taking ground balls that he looks fine at first mobility-wise. And with — given Sean Manaea good as he is especially against left-handed pitching, we wanted to do everything we could to thicken our lineup with some righties.”

Diaz made his manager look good hammering two homers and finishing the night 3-for-4. “I haven’t hit for two months, but I try to do everything I can to help the team.” Diaz said with the help of translator Manny Navarro. ” Come out there and play as hard as I can and luckily the results came in right.”

A’s Make Morton Work For Important Shutdown Inning:

The crowd was slightly quieted by Diaz’s homer in the first but the A’s bats weren’t about to allow Charlie Morton to settle in. He allowed a single to Marcus Semien and issued walks to Matt Chapman and Mark Canha as the Oakland A’s loaded the bases with 2-outs for Jurickson Profar. Morton was up to the task getting Profar to fly out to right fielder Avisail Garcia to end the threat, but the A’s forced Morton to throw 32-pitches.

Morton was never able to get into his groove in his five innings of work, but like a true veteran, he limited the Athletics to just one unearned run. Escaping the jam in the first inning and keeping the lead and the fans out of the game was of great importance.

“When the first inning ended, I said to myself ‘we were fortunate to have Charlie on the mound’. Kevin Cash said after the game. “We get the 1-0 lead, a young pitcher in that situation, in that environment, how loud it got, you just wonder how he’s going to handle that. Charlie’s been there done that, his veteran experience I think allowed that. Charlie was not at his best today but he certainly made his best pitches when they counted the most.”

Tampa Bay will head to Houston to take on the Astros starting on Friday afternoon. Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA) will take the ball for Houston. Tampa Bay will counter with Tyler Glasnow (6-1, 1.78 ERA). It’s the Rays first trip to the ALDS since losing to the Boston Red Sox in four games in 2013.