2019 Tampa Bay Rays

A clubhouse of stone cold killers.

Jim Rome
October 03, 2019 - 9:29 am
Yandy Diaz

USA Today

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The MLB wild card can be brutal. You win 96 games over the course of the season and you’re rewarded with a win-or-go-home one game playoff. And if you’re the Tampa Bay Rays, you have to play that game on the road, because Oakland won 97 games. 

But if you’re going to travel from Tampa Bay to the Bay, you might as well make it worth your while. And the Rays did that. Damn, did they ever. 

I give you Yandy Diaz, leading off the game, in the top of the first.

That’s a guy who’s played one game since July 22nd leading off the game with a bomb. Yandy Diaz was a surprise starter last night and he surprised everyone by going yard in his first at-bat. 

That is how you silence a rowdy Oakland crowd. Tampa Bay, going on the road, against an A’s team that hit a franchise-record 257 home runs.

Think about that for a second. This A’s team hit a franchise-record for home runs. More than when Reggie Jackson was there. More than when the Bash Brothers were mashing and juicing. 

And it was Tampa who was crushing the ball last night. Because unlike donuts, if one home run is good, two is better.  

That ball from Avisail Garcia was crushed to dead center. Again…daaaayum!  Because that’s . 115.2 miles per hour heat, coming off the bat. 

And if two is good, how about three?

Yandy Diaz, again. And that ball nearly went to the same spot. The guy has zero hits in the last two months and two homers last night.

He’s still coming back from injury. Saturday, he was playing in an instructional league game against teenagers. And last night, he was crushing a 97-win team in Oakland. 

And yes, I’m aware of the fact that Diaz looks like he might have seen the inside of a weight room or fifty. I can see that he can probably bust out a mean set of hammer curls, followed by preacher curls, followed by concentration curls, some spider curls, some cable curls, and maybe even an old school barbell curl. 

Every day is back and bi day for him, but it’s not just about Diaz and his pipes. There was a ton of power in those homers, but there’s also a ton of skill. 

Do you know how hard it is to homer off major league pitching, even in this home run friendly era? Do you know how much harder it is to do when you’ve played one MLB game in the last two months and haven’t homered since July 18th? 

Its borderline impossible and yet Diaz just showed up and crushed. But as his teammate Kevin Kiermaier says, that’s what Diaz does. He’s "just one of those guys, he just wakes up out of bed and rakes. Everyone knows him for his muscles and what he can do in the weight room and stuff like that, but the guy finds the barrel so much throughout this whole season, and any time we're able to have him available, we're happy."

Hell yes you’re happy, because when you’ve got a guy with that power in the leadoff spot in an elimination game and he’s crushing the ball, you’re good. And he was finding the barrel in the best way possible last night. Again, a leadoff man, who could bench press the stadium 25 times.

I’d call that winner-take-all game a pressure situation, but Diaz wouldn’t. He’s has faced much worse. He defected from Cuba after failing and getting arrested before. He played winter ball in Venezuela, where he laughed at the pressure: "In Venezuela, if you made an error, maybe you'd get shot."

And the Rays kept on crushing. Tommy Pham in the top of the fifth.

When you’re hitting like that, it doesn’t matter if your starter, Charlie Morton didn’t feel like he had his best stuff. He battled and kept working at it, and his hitters kept hitting. It was 5-1 when Morton left after five and turned it over to the Rays bullpen. And if you haven’t been paying attention to them, that crew is nasty. 

This whole team is nasty. They can pitch. And they showed last night, they can bomb when they need to. 

And none of those were cheap. They were shots. And you know who else was taking shots? The Tampa Bay Rays twitter account. @raysbaseball came loaded for the Bay Area. 

When it was over, and they’d won 5-1, they dropped: “Just won, baby.” 

And chased that with celebration photos in the clubhouse and the caption “Hella lit.”

And now that they have just won, they are taking that hella lit team to Houston to face Justin Verlander on Friday afternoon and Gerrit Cole on Saturday night. They’re going against the CY Young favorites on back to back games and facing team that outscored them by 151 runs in the regular season. 

On paper, this should be a mismatch. But after seeing what they did last night, on the road, in a hostile environment, count the Rays out at your peril. 

If you think they’re going to be intimidated, you better think again. Because if Yandy Diaz is in your lineup, and better yet, if Yandy Diaz is at the top of your lineup, you’re not intimidated by anything. No, I’m not taking them over Houston, because as Sean Casey said yesterday on the show, they’re a clubhouse of stone cold killers. But if you expect the Rays to just roll over and die, you got the wrong crew. That’s not going to happen.