In front of a sellout crowd in the Coliseum Wednesday, the small-market Oakland A’s faced off against the even smaller market Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Wild Card Game. The two teams that had both shocked the world with Postseason appearances finally faced off for a chance to play the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series.
Power hitting, going into today’s game, was seen as a weakness on the Rays’ end and a strength for the A’s. This would not be the case in this winner take all battle as the Rays would stomp with four home runs and would hold Oakland to just eight singles in a 5-1 upset victory.
Yandy Díaz kicked things off quickly for the Rays, ripping a leadoff home run to right-center field off of A’s’ starter Sean Manaea. Avisaíl García added a monster two-run homer to straightaway center field in the second, and Díaz would hit his second home run of the night in the third inning with a solo shot to the opposite field. Manaea’s night would come to a subsequent end. Tommy Pham launched a solo homer off of Yusmeiro Petit in the fifth to make it a 5-1 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 Athletics left the bases loaded in the first inning after Jurickson Profar jumped out of the way of a sure-fire hit by pitch that would have scored a run and promptly flied out to end the inning. The A’s offense also failed to capitalize on putting two on with one out in the fourth inning. The Athletics lone run scored came across in the third inning. Marcus Semien hit a ground ball to third baseman Michael Brosseau, whose throw went awry and Semien reached third base. Semien would score promptly on a Ramón Laureano sacrifice fly.
Just like that, the scoring for the night came to an end.
Diego Castillo took over for Morton in the sixth and would be replaced in the eighth by Nick Anderson after two scoreless innings pitched. Manager Kevin Cash kept Anderson in the game for the ninth, and after Anderson struck out Robbie Grossman, Cash went to closer Emilio Pagán. Pagán got Josh Phegley to ground out, and Marcus Semien struck out to end the game and the Athletics’ season. This marked the third Wild Card Game the A’s have lost since 2014 and their second in a row. Holding true to the narrative that “Moneyball” doesn’t work in the Postseason.
“It’s a beautiful thing having the lowest payroll in baseball and having the success we did,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays’ highest-paid player at $8.17 million, said before the game. “It always feels good to stick it to the man any time you’re able to in this game.”
The Rays will advance into the Division Series for the first time since 2013 and will face the 107-win Astros. That series will begin in Houston on Friday afternoon at 2:05 PM ET.