Bill Simmons made the “Retro Game Diary” a thing for ESPN back in the day, here’s the premise: It’s basically a minute-by-minute diary of a big game, so live-tweeting but for people who avoid Twitter like myself. A win-or-go-home Wild Card Game against the A’s seemed like the perfect time to bust it out, so sit back, fire up the game on replay, and enjoy re-living the Rays biggest win in a longggggggggg time.
7:55: All right, here we are, getting ready for what is sure to be an ulcer-inducing AL Wild Card showdown between America’s Team, the Tampa Bay Rays, and convicted arsonists, the Oakland A’s.
8:05: MC Hammer throws out the first pitch, which is (hopefully) the only good thing the A’s do all night.
8:11: What a start! That’s why we fucking start Yandy. Rays up 1-0 on a laser that just clears the fence in right field on the first batter of the game. Getting Yandy back on the final day of the regular season was such a nice surprise, and I honestly was one million percent behind starting him for this game, even before that pitch. Again: What a start!
8:18: This Statcast broadcast (ESPN 2) is amazing; I’m probably not going to say this 1500 times in here, but just know that’s how many times I’m thinking it.
8:32: Bottom half of the first, as Manaea settles down post-Yandy, and Charlie Morton honestly looks solid, but the A’s batters are just spitting on anything outside the zone. God, this game is gonna be fun/terrifying.
8:35: From DRB writer John Ford: “Key point in the early going: Profar self defense kicking in.” Morton nearly hits Jurickson Profar with the bases loaded, but TdA makes the stop, as Profar dodges the inside curve.
8:36: That sun has to be a beast to deal with in the early going; any play made is going to be a good one, as Avisail Garcia does right there. And that’s how, 31 pitches in, CFM gets out of the first with the lead intact.
8:45: The Rays are LOCKED IN on Manaea right now. Whoever scouted for this game, give that man/woman a raise!
8:55: Charlie definitely locked back in for the second inning; now we just need the ump to adjust his stance and start giving him that outside edge against lefties.
8:56: Petriello with the perfect response to the stupid “anti-shift” nonsense that somehow slipped into the Statcast broadcast. Keep fighting the good fight, Mike. (95 percent sure Jason Bennetti was setting him up for that take down, so partial credit to Jason, too. We love Jason.)
8:59: Rays lead 3-0 as we head to the top of the third inning, and I’m shocked to see Manaea still in the game.
9:00: And THAT’S why I’m shocked Manaea started this third. YANDY AGAIN! Muscles Man delivers, 4-0 Rays and I’m uncomfortable with how good I’m feeling. Need to just Clockwork Orange style watch the Nats-Brewers game from last night to make sure I don’t get too cocky.
9:02: John Ford: “I miss Jake but I want to have Yandy’s babies.”
YANDY DIAZ CRUSH ME BETWEEN YOUR MASSIVE BICEPS— DiazRaysBay (@draysbay) October 3, 2019
9:10: The chess moves are beginning already with Brandon Lowe hitting for Matt Duffy in the third inning. Watching these two teams play chess tonight is definitely a baseball stats nerd’s dream come true.
9:13: Even though Lowe grounds out, I like the move. Try to bury these guys as early as possible.
9:16: Gahhhhhhhh, I knew Brosseau being in this game was going to drive me nuts at some point. He bounces a throw from third to lead off the bottom half of the third, allowing Semien to get all the way to third base. (Say “third” one more time...) Granted, Yandy should’ve at least stopped that at first base, but I have legit no idea why Bross is even on this playoff roster.
9:18: Lead cut to 4-1 as Garcia makes a good play to get to a flyball in right field, but the run scores and the crowd is back alive. Curious to see how CFM can adjust to the first run coming around.
9:21: DRB writer Brian Menendez: “It’s clear to me that the A’s are 100% looking offspeed.” This is a great observation, as Morton hasn’t been able to get the A’s to bite on any of his honestly pretty nasty curves right off the plate. It’s an interesting approach, but it hasn’t paid off just yet, as Morton gets out of the third inning allowing only the one unearned run. Rays lead 4-1 through three innings.
9:29: Honestly, even taking into account that not-great Yandy play at first, I’m SO happy they started him there. Because if he had to be DH, it’s probably Avi who gets bumped to the bench, and we miss out on that BLAST in the second inning.
9:32: Rays go down in order in the fourth, their first inning without a homer, and it feels like we’re approaching the fast, low-scoring middle innings as we amp up to what I still think will be a wild finish.
9:40: Hoo boy, these managers are getting aggressive. Seth Brown, the lefty, pinch-hits for catcher Sean Murphy after the A’s get a pair of hitters on in the fourth. That burns not just one but two position players, as the A’s will have to replace Brown with their backup catcher once they take the field again.
9:42: The move doesn’t do much, as Brown grounds out on a check swing, and Cash leaves Morton in for Semien who grounds out to second to leave the Rays ahead 4-1 through four. The sphincter can relax for a second.
9:48: We have forty trillion second basemen, and somehow Mike Brosseau is still batting against a righty in the fifth inning of a Wild Card Game. I don’t second guess Cash often, but this seems asinine.
9:51: Yet another jack to dead center, as Tommy Pham continues to GET HUNGRY (corniness acknowledged) with a solo jack to bring us to 5-1 Rays. Love how quiet 50,000 people can be.
9:52: From the Statcast broadcast: “Who would ever want to trade with the Rays again?” Yep.
10:02: Second pre-judge of a Cash move. Leaving Morton in to face Olson seems like a terrible idea. Let’s see how it goes.
10:04: Yup, and that’s why I’m a dumb-dumb writing this recap, and Kevin Cash manages a playoff baseball team. Olson grounds into a double play, and Morton makes it through five. Cash is a genius just like I always said two minutes ago. Rays lead 5-1 through five. Twelve outs to go.
10:06: Unnamed DRB writer: “This is Alex Cobb in Cleveland all over again. Bend don’t break.”
10:07: Jesus Luzardo in for the A’s, and I’m honestly excited to watch him pitch; young stud who should be on the scene for a while.
10:11: Yup, Luzardo is pretty filthy.
10:16: Diego Castillo on for the Rays in the bottom half of the sixth, and I’m a little nervous. This was the dude who looked shook in Boston in June. We’ll see. My Cash doubts have all been proven silly so far.
10:24: Castillo gives up a hit, but looks sharp overall, and we’re now nine outs away, 5-1 Rays through six. Also, regarding using Castillo there: I think the thought process was Castillo was definitely coming in at some point, so they’ll save Anderson for the top of the lineup and let Castillo handle the bottom of the lineup. Good move, and it plays out that way. This is why the Rays are in this spot.
10:34: The Rays get a couple guys on (including Yandy who gets his third hit of the night and then gets pulled for running and defensive reasons), but Luzardo gets out of it as we head to the bottom of the seventh with the Rays still leading 5-1.
10:39: Castillo back out for a second inning, and I’m done doubting Cash. I now pray at the altar of Cash. Let’s see how this goes.
10:43: DRB writer Dan Slaubaugh: “Thank god the people in this chat aren’t the manager tonight.” I feel targeted, but yeah, that checks out.
10:47: Scary AB there, as a bloop single brings up Matt Chapman aka “The most underappreciated player in baseball” for a high-leverage AB, which ends with Joey Wendle making an OUTSTANDING play at third base. Rays, 5-1. Six effing outs to go.
10:57: Toasted Cheddar Chalupa commercial.
10:58: Nick Anderson in. Turning to our truly dominant reliever in the bottom half of the eighth inning in a 2019 Wild Card Game. What could go wrong…
.@mike_petriello I would appreciate you not comparing Anderson to Hader in the 8th inning of a WC game— DiazRaysBay (@draysbay) October 3, 2019
11:00: Leadoff single. Butthole tightens.
11:01: Crowd is already back into it. As are my stomach cramps.
11:02: Anderson with one of the spiciest high curves you’re going to see. Backwards K. Five outs to go.
11:05: Anderson falls behind 3-0… and proceeds to come back and strike out Profar. Four outs to go.
11:08: Davis didn’t have a fucking chance. Anderson is God. Three outs to go.
11:17: Ji-Man Choi cameo! We love it. On to the bottom of the ninth…
11:19: Who needs poets like Homer, when we have Homin?
Ok. down to the last stage of victory.— Homin Lee (@Homein22) October 3, 2019
11:22: Four outs for Anderson, all strikeouts. What a GD deadline acquisition. Two outs to go.
11:23: Cash turns to Emilioooooooooo Pagan for the final two outs. He gets ten more “O”s on his name if he locks this down.
11:25: Two pitches for out number one. ONE OUT TO GO!!!!!!!
11:28: And that’s it! Pagan strikes out Marcus Semien; zero outs to go; Rays win, 5-1. The Rays are headed to the ALDS!!!!!!
11:31: These good vibes are going to last quite a while. Or at least until we face Houston, and it’s Ulcer City all over again. But seriously, this team has some major good vibes around it right now. Houston is likely the best team in baseball and arguably one of the best teams in the history of the sport, but anything can happen in five games. Off to drink a celebratory shower beer and ride these good feelings as long as possible. Cheers, Rays faithful, enjoy this one for as long as you can.