• Jon Serrano

American League WildCard: Rays Slug 4 Homers to beat A's 5-1

Yandy Diaz (2) and Tommy Pham both hit dingers to propel Tampa Bay to the win

The Tampa Bay Rays, (the little engine that could) knocked out the Oakland A's (the other little engine that could) 5-1 and it was a game controlled by Tampa from the first inning on. Sean Manaea took the rubber for Oakland and he was inconsistent to be blunt. Manaea struck out 5 in the first two innings but Tampa hit him hard. Yandy Diaz opened up the first with a 106 MPH rocket off of Manaea into right field continuing the trend of early power in these wildcard games as ESPN commentator Alex Rodriguez pointed out.

Oakland had their shot in the first inning when they loaded the bases against Charlie Morton who wasn't particularly crisp. Morton hurled a season-high 31 first-inning pitches, giving up a lead-off single to Marcus Semien and two walks later in the inning. Morton was able to wiggle out of trouble with a pair of strikeouts and a Jurickson Profar fly out to right.

That early power continued into the second inning for the Rays when Avasail Garcia hit a mammoth 2-run shot into straightaway center, blasting off the bat at 115 MPH and traveling 434 feet. After a quick bottom of the second for Oakland, Manaea's night came to an early end when Diaz struck again on a solo shot to the same spot on the same pitch in the third inning. Manaea left 3 pitches up in the zone for Diaz and Garcia and they capitalized on them.

In Manaea's five starts in September, he gave up three home runs, he gave up three in less than three innings. It became a bullpen game for Oakland who has had a stellar bullpen all season but especially in September, finishing with the second-best bullpen ERA in the league. Only one issue with that, Tampa finished ahead of Oakland in bullpen ERA.

Oakland went into the bottom of the 4th (down 4-1) with two men on and one out with Tampa's bullpen and up and throwing. Morton was not on his A-game, not being able to put away batters and racking up long at-bats, but he was able to once again get out of a jam. Tampa made Oakland pay for not cashing in on a run-scoring opportunity the next inning when Tommy Pham went yard to left-center to force Oakland to go the pen again.

Tampa was able to shut down Oakland for the final four frames going to a combination of Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, and Emilio Pagan who rung up a combined 8 batters.

Much coverage was given to the New York Yankees this season for having a multitude of injuries throughout the season, but Tampa was right behind New York in the number of players on the I.L. and that includes Diaz. Diaz was acquired from Cleveland during the offseason was activated from the I.L. this past Sunday after missing 80 plus games this season.

Tampa is moving onto the ALDS to take on the Houston Astros and will be hoping to carry on the hard-hitting against the probable A.L. Cy Young winner Justin Verlander this Friday Night.