BOSTON — The word on Yandy Diaz when the Rays made the somewhat head-scratching-at-the-time deal to get him from Cleveland for Jake Bauers and $5 million was that he hit the ball hard but didn’t hit it in the air.
In his first month with the Rays, Diaz has proved otherwise, hitting the ball hard and in the air enough to log a team-leading seven home runs.
The most recent came Saturday on David Price’s second pitch of the game, a blast that carried a StatCast-estimated 428 feet, with a 105.1 mph exit velocity and a 25 degree launch angle, soaring into the seats at the centerfield end of the Green Monster.
Diaz said it’s only slight changes to his swing that have led to the big difference in results.
“I’ve been trying to elevate the ball since the beginning of the year, and it’s been going well,’’ the native of Cuba said through team translator Manny Navarro. “That’s all I’ve been trying to work on.’’
Manager Kevin Cash said the results are a credit to the work Diaz has put in, and the work hitting coach Chad Mottola and his staff have done with him.
In 265 at-bats over 88 games in parts of two seasons with the Indians, Diaz hit one homer. This year, he’s currently on pace for 44.
Charlie Morton’s moment
Having grown up in Connecticut, pitching at Fenway Park is always going to be somewhat special for Charlie Morton. The first time he did, during a predraft workout in 2002, he scooped some dirt off the mound and pulled a few blades of grass to stuff into a small container and bring home as a souvenir.
He didn’t make it back until 2017, when he signed with the Astros after being with NL teams, and won both regular-season starts he made, and took a no-decision in a 2017 AL division series game.
On Saturday, facing the Red Sox for the second time in eight days, the right-hander enjoyed the experience again, working six shutout innings, allowing only two hits, though with four walks, in the 2-1 win.
“To come in here, in Fenway, it’s a special place,’’ he said. “And to pitch pretty well again against that team.’’
What goes up ...
The Rays had enough problems getting outs in the final three innings, thanks to some more shaky bullpen work. Then they had an issue with the wind. With one on and one out and Emilio Pagan on the mound, Mookie Betts hit a popup that drifted behind first base and out of the reach of Diaz. But Diaz turned the bad break into a good one, picking the ball up on the bounce and firing to second for the forceout. “I kind of lost it with the wind,’’ Diaz said. “You have that quick ‘What am I going to do (feeling).’ But you’ve got to make the play.’’ Said Cash: “I was wondering where Yandy was going. We could clearly see from our vantage point it was going to be very playable. … It was a good recovery and good thing he’s got a strong arm and can make a play like that.’’
Glasnow ready for Sox again
Tyler Glasnow pitched pretty well against the Red Sox last Sunday, he just didn’t get to pitch all that long, removed by Cash after 76 pitches and two batters into the sixth in a decision that backfired as the bullpen gave up the 2-1 lead. Glasnow faces the Sox again Sunday, saying he doesn’t plan to do much different and is well aware of the challenge. “They’re last year’s World Series team, everyone knows how good they are,’’ he said. “The difference with them is they just kind of do whatever to get runs. They’re definitely a really strong team when they’re all together, and they’ll do whatever it takes to win ball games.’’
Number of the day
71:50 Hours and minutes Rays were idle between the last pitch Wednesday and the first Saturday.
• This was the Rays’ first win when scoring two or fewer runs.
• The Rays increased their first-inning scoring margin to 26-4.
• Catcher Mike Zunino’s fourth-inning RBI single was clocked at 113.1 mph, his second-hardest hit ball of the season.
• Reliever Hunter Wood, who has been on the paternity and then family emergency medical leave lists for a week to deal with the premature birth of his daughter, could rejoin the team Sunday.
• Things could change, but weather.com forecasts a 60 percent chance of rain Sunday with afternoon showers.