Oct. 3 (UPI) — The Tampa Bay Rays hit four home runs and their pitching held the Oakland Athletics in check during the American League wild-card playoff in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday night.
Rays third-baseman Yandy Diaz smacked a 91-mph fastball over the right-field fence to put Tampa on the board, and the team didn’t look back. Diaz, who’s been injured and played in just one game since July, recorded two more hits and another home run in the win-or-go-home playoff.
“It was my dream to get to the playoffs,” the Cuba-born Diaz said. “We just came out there with a positive mind. It didn’t matter how many people came out to the game. Thankfully, we were able to come out on top.”
Rays right-fielder Avisail Garcia added a two-run home run in the second inning to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead. The home run had an exit velocity of 115.2 mph, the hardest hit home run by a Rays player since Statcast started tracking data in 2015.
The A’s eventually pulled starting pitcher Sean Manaea in the third after he gave up four earned runs.
Rays designated hitter Tommy Pham hit the fourth home run of the night off A’s reliever Yusmeiro Petit to give the Rays a 5-1 lead in the fifth.
“Everyone said that Oakland was going to get the home runs and beat us,” Pham said. “But we turned around and beat them, and we hit the home runs. So everyone was wrong.”
Rays starter Charlie Morton finished the night with no earned runs, just three walks and four strike outs in five innings. He worked out of a bases loaded jam in the first when Oakland second baseman Jurickson Profar hit a pop-fly to end the frame. Oakland scored its only run when center-fielder Ramon Laureano took first base on a throwing error in the third, and reached home plate on a sacrifice fly.
The Rays advanced to the American League Divisional round, where they will face the Houston Astros in Houston at 2 p.m. EDT Friday. The Astros notched a league-best record of 107-55 during the regular season.