Update, entering the bottom of the ninth: The Rays have managed only two hits since the fifth inning, but Tampa Bay relievers Diego Castillo and Nick Anderson have been up to the challenge.
Castillo, following starter Charlie Morton, worked two scoreless innings, allowing a pair of singles. Anderson gave up a leadoff single to Oakland cleanup hitter Matt Olson before striking out the next three batters.
Update, bottom of the sixth inning: Charlie Morton gave the Rays their money’s worth Wednesday night in Oakland.
The big-game pitcher, signed to a two-year, $30-million contract in the offseason, left with Tampa Bay leading the A’s, 5-1, in the bottom of the sixth.
Morton allowed five hits, walked four and surrendered an unearned run in his 94-pitch, five-inning outing. He worked through some tight spots, none tighter than the two-out, bases-loaded jam he escaped in the first inning.
But all five hits he allowed were singles.
Diego Castillo followed Morton with a scoreless sixth inning.
Tommy Pham joins in
Update, 5th inning: Tommy Pham became the third Rays batter to homer Wednesday night, blasting a solo-shot off Oakland reliever Yusmeiro Petit on an 85-mph cut fastball in the fifth inning.
The Rays fourth home run of the night further quieted what had been a wild Oakland crowd to start the game. Tampa Bay has scored in four of its five at bats.
Yandy Diaz has the right launch angle now
When the Rays traded for Yandy Diaz last winter, they hoped to harness his power by helping him increase his so-called launch angle. If the early innings of Wednesday’s wild-card game are any indication, it is working.
Diaz blasted opposite-field solo home runs in his first two at bats to chase Oakland starter Sean Manaea and help the Rays open a 4-1 lead after three innings in Oakland.
Diaz hit more home runs in his first two at-bats Wednesday night than he hit all of last season with the Cleveland Indians, who dealt him to Tampa Bay in a Dec. 13 deal with minor-league pitcher Cole Slusser for first baseman Jake Bauers.
Diaz, who missed two months after suffering a fracture in his left foot after fouling a pitch off it on July 22, is playing in only his second game since the injury. He hit 14 home runs in 307 regular-season at bats, three times as many as he received in either of his two seasons in Cleveland.
The Rays opened a 4-0 lead with the help of Avisail Garcia’s two-run homer in the second inning. Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton allowed three hits and walked three through four innings, escaping a two-out bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first by retiring Jurickson Profar on a fly out to right.
This story will be updated