Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Yandy Díaz made a statement in yesterdays 5-1 win over the Oakland Athletics at Rickey Henderson Field. That statement: “We came out to play.”
In Wednesday’s winner-takes-all game, the 28-year-old first baseman took A’s left handed pitcher Sean Manaea deep in consecutive plate appearances. First, leading off with a solo home run in the first inning to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead and later in the third inning to extend the Rays lead to 5-1 with a two-run home run.
“When I looked out into the bench and saw the other guys getting excited, it just pumped me up to around the bases. I thought we had to carry that momentum throughout the game.” Díaz said following the game.
On July 23 Díaz was placed on the injured list and did not return to the active roster until September 29, playing in a total of 12 games since the All-Star break. “I don’t think we expected that type of performance,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said on Díaz’s performance. “He’s made us look a lot smarter than we really are by getting back in the lineup.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Díaz defected from Cuba after four attempts (three failed attempts with jail sentences) to leave his native island and signing with the Cleveland Indians for $300,000. After spending five years under the Indians organization, Díaz was involved in a three-team trade where he was sent to the Tampa Rays, a trade that sent Edwin Encarnacion to the Seattle Mariners and Carlos Santana to the Indians.
Avisaíl García, who made his postseason debut with the Detroit Tigers in 2012, contributed early in the first inning with a solo home run. “Since the season start no one believed in us, so we believed in us, we never gave up.” García said as beer showered the visiting locker room.
With a heavy support system on the offensive side of the plate, Charlie Morton pitched five scoreless innings, striking four batters before handing the ball over to Diego Castillo.
The Rays will face the Houston Astros in game one of the American League Divisional Series on Friday, October 4 at 2:05 p.m. at Minute Maid Park. It will be the first time the Rays will play in the ALDS since losing to the Red Soxs in 2013.
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