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.