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Rays 4, Cardinals 2: Go Yandy! It’s Your Birthday!

Another great start by Zach Eflin and a four-hit night for Yandy Diaz lead the Rays over the Cardinals

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

On his birthday, Yandy Diaz wasn’t searching for presents; he aimed to make his presence felt.

The celebrations kicked off pre-game with a band, courtesy of teammate Jake Diekman, playing in Diaz’s honor. During the game, Diaz went 4-for-4, including an almost game-winning RBI.

But before we delve into the birthday boy’s exploits, let’s unpack this game.

The opening inning hinted at a budding pitchers’ duel between Tampa Bay Rays’ starter Zach Eflin and St. Louis Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas. Both faced the minimum three batters: Eflin with a groundout followed by two strikeouts, while a Diaz single was offset by a Wander Franco double play, ending the inning with a Brandon Lowe strikeout.

In the second, the Cardinals took the lead thanks to a Nolan Arenado line-drive homer to left-center. Despite another hit that inning, the Rays’ defense halted further advancement. The Rays retaliated with runners on the corners from singles by Randy Arozarena and Luke Raley but couldn’t capitalize.

The Cardinals’ Lars Nootbaar hit a promising third-inning triple, but Paul Goldschmidt’s groundout left him stranded. Meanwhile, Diaz added another single for the Rays but ambitiously sought a double, only to be thrown out at second. You can’t gift yourself, it seems.

Hope sparkled for the Rays in the sixth with Christian Bethancourt and Diaz’s consecutive singles. Just like the first inning, Franco grounding into a double play, followed by a Brandon Lowe strikeout, quashed their hopes of scoring.

The seventh inning saw the Rays tie the game 1-1, courtesy of an Isaac Paredes solo homer.

The eighth inning was rife with drama. The Cardinals, despite bagging two walks, remained scoreless due to the stellar Rays’ defense. Tommy Edman’s leadoff walk was snuffed out by a brilliant throw from Christian Bethancourt to Franco, catching Edman attempting to steal second. The inning concluded with a spectacular catch by Jose Siri, retiring a sharp fly ball from Nolan Gorman.

The Rays’ offense ignited in the bottom of the eighth, as a Josh Lowe triple shifted the game’s momentum and ended Mikolas’ night on the mound. Lowe scored from a Diaz RBI single followed by RBI singles from B. Lowe and Randy Arozarena, solidifying a 4-1 lead.

In the ninth, Wilson Contreras’ homer gave the Cardinals a glimmer of hope, but it proved insufficient, resulting in a 4-2 Rays win.

Eflin delivered an exceptional pitch performance, tossing 7.0 innings, allowing a mere four hits and one earned run while fanning eight Cardinals. Notably, half of his strikeouts stemmed from his sinker. Now, the challenge is preserving Eflin’s form and steering clear of the Rays’ escalating pitcher injury list.

This was both an entertaining and compelling game. The Rays demonstrated grit, overturning a one-run shortfall and seizing pivotal moments. And, fittingly on Diaz’s birthday, he emerged as the game-changer, particularly with his four hits, including the game-shifting 8th-inning RBI single.