The Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night prevailed over the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game at [checks notes] RingCentral Coliseum (TB 5, OAK 1). So the Rays are advancing, and the A's have seen their season draw to a close. Now let's look at some eight takeaways from the first AL postseason game of 2019.
1. The A's made history before the game even began
Baseball enthusiasm in Oakland wasn't hard to find. Indeed, A's rooters set a wild-card record well before first pitch:
And then later:
The A's topped 50,000 in home attendance only once during the regular season, and that was on Aug. 24. That contest, however, was on a Saturday against the cross-Bay Giants, so it presumably was not all A's fans in the stands. Rays fans barely show up for home games, so they surely didn't travel well for this one.
2. The Rays brought the power
Tampa Bay took this one thanks in large measure to their power. The Rays ranked just 11th in the AL in home runs during the regular season, but they powered up for four homers in this one. Just seven times during the regular season did the Rays hit at least four home runs in a game, and just six times did the A's allow four or more homers. Along the way, the Rays became just the third team ever to homer four times in a playoff elimination game. The other two were the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS and the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1956 World Series.
Of particular note was Yandy Diaz, who went yard twice in the early innings:
As that graphic suggests, if you saw one Yandy Diaz homer from the Wild Card Game, then you pretty much saw them both. So here's his second one:
So a few things about Diaz's night:
- He's just the 10th player ever to have a multi-homer game in a postseason elimination game.
- He's the first Ray to do it.
- He's the first player in the last decade to hit multiple opposite-field home runs in a postseason game.
- He's first leadoff hitter ever to homer in his first two at-bats of a single postseason.
- He's the fifth player ever at any spot in the lineup to homer twice in his first two at-bats of a postseason.
All this from a guy who coming into Wednesday night had played exactly one game since July 22.
3. Manaea had one of his worst outings
Oakland's Wild Card Game starter Sean Manaea returned from shoulder surgery in time to make just five starts down the stretch. He was completely dominant across those starts, as he pitched to a 1.21 ERA with 30 strikeouts against seven walks. Against the Rays on Wednesday, though, he struggled:
In terms of Game Score, a quick-and-dirty Bill James metric that measures a pitcher's dominance or lack thereof in a given start (50 is average and anything 90 or higher is an absolute gem), Manaea's Wednesday night figure of 19 is his lowest such mark since Sept. 12, 2017. Obviously, those three dingers did the big damage, and on that point:
That's the first time in 87 career games that Sean Manaea has allowed three home runs.— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) October 3, 2019
Suffice it to say, poor timing from the Oakland standpoint for such a career first.
4. Morton did what he needed to do
Rays ace Charlie Morton didn't have vintage command of his breaking ball in the early going, but . In the bottom of the first inning, the A's worked him for 32 pitches in the frame, but they weren't able to cash in despite a single and two walks. Morton's 98-mph fastball to whiff hard-hitting Matt Olson for the second out of the first may have been the best pitch he made all night.
In the end, Morton gave the Rays five innings and allowed only one run (unearned). He struck out five against four walks and spotted just 56 of his 94 pitches for strikes. To repeat the subhead above, though, he did what he needed to do -- i.e., get 15 outs and hand the ball to the bullpen with a four-run cushion.
5. The A's had their chances
The squandered Oakland opportunity in the first is noted above. The A's had a runner on in every inning but the ninth and put the leadoff man on in four innings. They wound up going 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and nine runners left on base as a team. The sellout crowd got to buzzing in the eighth, when Olson lined a leadoff single. However, dominant reliever Nick Anderson blew away the next three batters to snuff out the final A's attempted rally. The only run they managed came on Marcus Semien's questionable decision to take third on an overthrow with no outs in the third followed by a sac fly into foul territory.
6. A's recent postseason history remains grim
This is of course the second straight year in which the A's have lost the AL Wild Card Game. Under Bob Melvin, they're now 4-9 in postseason play. That's also now five straight playoff appearances in which the A's have failed to advance beyond the ALDS. Going back to their sweep at the hands of the Reds in the 1990 World Series, the A's are now 17-32 in playoff games. Over that same span, eight different A's teams have won 95 or more games in the regular season, but that success hasn't translated to October.
7. But, hey, at least the A's looked good
Mr. Manaea shall do the modeling for us:
In what turned out to be a season-ending defeat, the A's wore their kelly green jerseys as opposed to those stupid dark green things they opt for all too often. Also, much kudos to Manaea (and Khris Davis) for those exposed stirrups. Oakland won the fashion battle, and that's what matters.
8. The Rays are moving on
With their victory over the A's, the Rays advance to the best-of-five ALDS to face the mighty, 107-win Astros. While Houston will of course be the heavy favorite, it's perhaps worth noting that the Rays went 4-3 against them during the regular season. On the other hand, the Astros outscored the Rays in those games by a margin of 40-27. Tampa Bay will be looking to win a postseason series for the first time since the 2008 ALCS. .