The Tampa Bay Rays hit four homers to beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-1, in the American League Wild Card Game at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland on Wednesday night. Tampa Bay advances to the ALDS to take on the Astros beginning on Friday.
The Rays became the third team in MLB postseason history to hit four home runs in a winner-take-all game. The other two: the Red Sox (2004 ALCS Game 7) and the Yankees (1956 World Series Game 7). Meanwhile, the A's offense wasn't able to generate an extra-base hit during the entire game. Oakland finished the game with eight hits, all singles. The Athletics' only run scored in the loss came via a throwing error and sacrifice fly.
Wednesday's game was the first postseason meeting between the two franchises. The Rays made their first postseason appearance since 2013 while the Athletics made their fifth postseason appearance since 2012. In 2013, the Rays won the AL Wild Card Game over the Indians, but later lost to the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in four games in the ALDS. Oakland lost to the Yankees in the 2018 AL wild card game, and haven't advanced past the ALDS since 2006. With Wednesday's loss, the A's extended their win-or-go-home game losing streak to nine straight games, an MLB record.
Why the Rays won
Tampa Bay Yandy Diaz homered twice, including starting the game with a lead-off blast and Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham knocked out homers of their own. The difference-maker on the offensive side for Tampa was Diaz, who was sidelined since July 22 with a left foot contusion, and only was activated from the injured list this past Sunday. The offense was backed by a solid performance from starter Charlie Morton. While Morton wasn't at his best, he escaped his ., and used the long ball to knock off the A's, scoring all of their runs via home runs.
Why the A's lost
The first issue for the A's was the fact that they dug themselves in an early hole. The A's were trailing in every at-bat they had and just couldn't get anything going on offense with the added pressure. Sean Manaea got knocked out of the game early, which might make some A's fans question why manager Bob Melvin didn't send out Mike Fiers to start Wednesday's game. At least 22-year-old Jesus Luzardo limited the damage and threw two scoreless innings in his first ever postseason appearance.
Play of the game
When Yandy Diaz blasted his second home run of the game, knocking Sean Manaea out of the game in the process, Tampa gained full control of the contest.
Diaz accomplished something few players have done before (multi-HR postseason game), and his second homer served as the turning point for the Rays, giving them breathing room in the win-or-go-home game.
"He made us look a lot smarter than what we really are," Rays manager Kevin Cash said about batting Diaz in the leadoff spot.
The Rays have a tough task ahead. They'll face the Houston Astros in the best-of-five ALDS. Houston posted the best regular season record in baseball and is the favorite to win the World Series. The Astros will deploy their top-notch rotation, which includes Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke . The Rays went 4-3 against Houston in the regular season, but everything's different in the playoff setting.
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