Almost everything went right for the Tampa Bay Rays during Wednesday’s Wild Card Game victory over the Oakland Athletics.
From Yandy Diaz leading off the game with a home run, to Charlie Morton tight-roping his way out of danger all night long, to another Diaz blast, to just absolute bullpen dominance; the Rays were literally in control of this game from the very first at-bat.
Going to be hard to choose, but let’s go through and decide the top 5 best moments from last night’s action.
Yandy sets the tone
Have to start with Yandy Diaz’s leadoff blast, immediately giving the Rays and Charlie Morton a 1-0 advantage. The Oakland crowd had already been raucous during the pre-game ceremonies, but that opening blast quickly quieted the 50,000+ in attendance.
CFM gets out of the jam
After Diaz’s homerun in the first, the Rays were retired in order and Charlie Morton came on and immediately got himself into some trouble. After a leadoff single, Morton struck out a hitter, walk a hitter, struck out a hitter, and then walked another hitter to load the bases with two outs and bring up Jurickson Profar.
1-0, bases loaded, in a must-win game. Even though it was the first inning, this was a incredibly huge moment.
Struggling with the command of his curveball, Morton was not able to put hitters away as had been able to do with ease for most of the regular season. He even came within inches of drilling Profar with a curve, but the Athletics infielder moved out of the way just in the nick of time to keep the game tied.
Eventually, Morton was able to induce a routine flyball that Avisail Garcia was able to secure to end the inning and the threat.
Avisail’s mighty blast
As soon as the Rays ended the Athletics’ threat, Tampa Bay mounted one of their own with an infield single from Matt Duffy. Avisail Garcia then came up and launched a ball into the stratosphere — more accurately, off of the Holy Toledo sign in center field, 437 feet away. The home run made it a 3-0 game.
Top of the 3rd, Yandy Diaz facing Sean Manaea again.
Manaea throws a pitch in the exact same location as the pitch Diaz launched over the wall in the first and the result is exactly the same as well.
Diaz launched a ball deep to right field, that just kept carrying, as Diaz drives tend to do and the ball sailed over the wall for Diaz’s second home run of the game to make it 4-0.
Emilio closes the door
Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth, with the Rays now in strong control of the game as they have a 5-1 lead. The trio of Charlie Morton, Diego Castillo, and Nick Anderson had combined to limit the Athletics’ offense to just one run — an unearned one — over 8 1⁄3 innings, racking up 11 strikeouts.
Now, Kevin Cash turned to his closer, Emilio Pagan, whom the Rays had acquired from the Athletics the previous winter, to send the Rays to the American League Division Series.
Pagan closed the game out with a total lack of drama, easily retiring Josh Phegley on a groundball and then blowing a fastball past Marcus Semien to end the game and the Athletics’ season.