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Flurry of homers powers Rays past Athletics 5-1 in AL Wild Card game

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In my preview of the 2019 postseason, I listed power hitting as a strength for the Athletics and a weakness for the Rays. Leave it to the win-or-go-home format of the Wild Card game to turn that analysis on its head. On Wednesday night, the Rays cranked out four homers while limiting the A’s to eight singles en route to a 5-1 victory. They will move into the ALDS to face the Astros.

Yandy Díaz got things started quickly, belting a leadoff home run to right-center field off of starter Sean Manaea. Avisaíl García added a two-run homer to straightaway center field in the second, and Díaz reprised his role in the third inning with another solo homer to the opposite field. That ended Manaea’s night. Tommy Pham swatted a solo homer of his own off of Yusmeiro Petit in the fifth to make it a 5-1 game.

Rays starter Charlie Morton wasn’t exactly sharp, but he pitched well enough to get out of troubled waters on a repeat basis. The right-hander allowed a lone run on five hits and three walks while striking out four over five innings of work. The Athletics left the bases loaded in the first and failed to capitalize on putting two on with one out in the fourth inning. They also grounded into two inning-ending double plays. The only run the Athletics scored came across in the third inning. Marcus Semien hit a ground ball to third baseman Michael Brosseau, whose throw was wild and skipped into the vast expanse that is foul territory at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Semien reached third base, then scored promptly on a Ramón Laureano sacrifice fly.

Diego Castillo took over for Morton in the sixth, working around a one-out single by Jurickson Profar to send the game into the seventh. Castillo came out for a second inning of work. He worked around a two-out bloop single with a pair of strikeouts and a ground out.

In the eighth, Nick Anderson took over. After allowing a leadoff single, Anderson struck out the side in seemingly easy fashion. The rookie had an impressive and nice 69/16 K/BB ratio in 43 2/3 innings with the Marlins but somehow got even better after the Rays acquired him. In 21 1/3 innings through the end of the regular season, Anderson struck out 41 and walked two.

Manager Kevin Cash kept Anderson in the game to finish out the game in the ninth. He struck out Robbie Grossman, then Cash went to closer Emilio Pagán. Pagán got Josh Phegley to ground out. Marcus Semien struck out on an outside fastball to end the game and the Athletics’ season.

The A’s have not been in the Division Series since 2013. The Rays, advancing into the Division Series for the first time since ’13, now look ahead to facing the 107-win Astros. That series will begin in Houston on Friday afternoon at 2:05 PM ET.

MLB and MLBPA announce first set of COVID-19 test results

MLB COVID-19 test results
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On Friday evening, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced the first set of results for COVID-19 testing as part of the mandatory intake screening process under MLB’s COVID-19 Health Monitoring & Testing Plan. Per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Athletics are not part of this data because their testing has not yet been completed.

There were 38 positive tests, accounting for 1.2% of the 3,185 samples collected and tested. 31 of the 38 individuals who tested positive are players. 19 different teams had one or more individuals test positive.

Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri notes that the positive test rate in the U.S. nationally is 8.3 percent. The NBA’s positive test rate was 7.1 percent. MLB’s positive test rate is well below average. This doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong with MLB’s testing or that it’s an atypical round of testing. Rather, MLB’s testing population may more closely represent the U.S. population as a whole. Currently, because testing is still somewhat limited, those who have taken tests have tended to be those exhibiting symptoms or those who have been around others who have tested positive. If every single person in the U.S. took a test, the positive test rate would likely come in at a much lower number.

Several players who tested positive have given their consent for their identities to be made known. Those are: Delino DeShields (link), Brett Martin (link), Edward Colina, Nick Gordon, and Willians Astudillo (link). Additionally, Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodríguez has not shown up to Red Sox camp yet because he has been around someone who tested positive, per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey.