The first batter in Wednesday’s AL Wild Card Game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s was a surprising choice, and he produced a surprising result. Yandy Diaz was only activated off the 60-day disabled list for Sunday’s regular-season finale (he had been out since July 23 with a fractured left foot), he wasn’t even a sure bet to make the 25-man roster for this game, and manager Kevin Cash said that Diaz “wasn’t expected to play the field” if they did use him. But when the lineups rolled around, Cash sent Diaz out there as the first baseman and leadoff hitter. And Diaz made that decision look good early on, working a 3-1 count against A’s starter Sean Manaea, then cranking a home run to right field:
That was quite the start for Tampa Bay. Manaea got out of the jam afterwards, striking out Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows and Travis D’Arnaud in order, but Diaz’s home run meant the Rays took a very early lead.
Update: After Avasail Garcia hit a two-run homer in the second inning, Diaz then followed this up with another solo home run in his second at-bat, putting the Rays up 4-0 in the third inning and ending Manaea’s night.