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Rays’ Diaz gives master class in quality at-bat

His seventh-inning pinch-hit appearance sets up the game-winning chance for Manuel Margot.
Rays first base coach Ozzie Timmons  congratulates Manuel Margot after his RBI single off Astros reliever Ryne Stanek during the seventh inning Sunday at Tropicana Field. Margot ended up with the winning RBI after Yandy Diaz worked an 11-pitch at-bat that produced a single (and a throwing error) to set up Margot.
Rays first base coach Ozzie Timmons congratulates Manuel Margot after his RBI single off Astros reliever Ryne Stanek during the seventh inning Sunday at Tropicana Field. Margot ended up with the winning RBI after Yandy Diaz worked an 11-pitch at-bat that produced a single (and a throwing error) to set up Margot. [ STEVE NESIUS | AP ]
Published May 2
Updated May 3

ST. PETERSBURG — Yandy Diaz, a versatile performer for the Rays, is best-known for his ability to work a quality at-bat, keeping hope alive while frustrating things for the opposing pitcher. Those characteristics were on full display Sunday when the Rays defeated the Astros 5-4 at Tropicana Field.

Diaz, entering as a seventh-inning pinch-hitter and batting for Joey Wendle, worked an 11-pitch at-bat that produced a single (and a throwing error) to set up the game-winning chance for Manuel Margot, also sent up as a pinch-hitter.

“It’s not easy to pinch-hit in general, so being able to come in and work that at-bat like he did, it was huge,’' said outfielder Austin Meadows, who had gone to first base after being hit by a pitch with one out when Diaz was summoned against Astros left-hander Brooks Raley.

“He wasn’t too overaggressive, and he waited for his pitch.’'

Diaz took a strike, then fouled one off, falling behind 0-2. After taking a changeup for ball one, he fouled off five consecutive pitches from Raley. Diaz took two balls for a full count, then delivered his infield single on the at-bat’s 11th pitch.

“That was as big as (Margot’s) at-bat,’' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Tough left-hander (Raley) on the mound who cuts everything in on righties. Yandy hung in there really nice.’'

“It was a tremendous at-bat,’' Margot said. “It kind of clicked for us to keep on pushing forward. (Diaz) kind of fell behind on the at-bat, and he just kept on fighting. That got everybody else going. That was a great at-bat.’'

Glasnow vs. Ohtani

The Rays will send out right-hander Tyler Glasnow (3-1, 1.67 ERA, 56 strikeouts in 37⅔ innings) against Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 3.29), a two-way sensation, in the first game of their series Monday night.

“(Ohtani) is a very rare talent,’' Glasnow said. “I’m excited to pitch against him, for sure.’'

“It’s impressive to see someone do that, not only hit with a lot of power but throw 100 (mph),’' Meadows said. “People don’t understand how hard that is to do. He’s good for our game, someone fans around the world can follow.’'

Glasnow isn’t a bad guy to follow, either.

“Tyler has been impressive all year,’' Meadows said. “When he faces some adversity, it just seems like he doesn’t let it bother him. It really isn’t fair for (opposing batters) up there. I’m really glad he’s on our side. We know every time he’s out there we have a good chance (to win).’'

Return to arms

After performing well in simulated games, relievers Pete Fairbanks (right rotator cuff strain) and Collin McHugh (low back strain) were scheduled to make the West Coast trip. With another simulated-game outing, they could be activated this week from the injured list.

“The stuff and velocity (with Fairbanks), everything looked right in line and consistent with the guy we’ve seen the past two years,’' Cash said. “We’re very encouraged by that. If he checks that box (in another simulated game), we’re probably trying to find a day to activate him.

“Collin had a different buildup in spring training, a challenging spring, so maybe this has bought him a little time. It helps to (potentially) get back some arms.’'

Miscellany

The Rays moved to 4-5 in one-run games (they were 14-5 in 2020). … The Rays batted .196 overall and .099 (7-for-71) with runners in scoring position during the 10-game homestand. Their batters struck out 102 times. … Rays left-hander Rich Hill, who allowed only two baserunners in his three innings of work Sunday, passed the 1,000-inning career mark. … Meadows’ fifth-inning homer snapped a scoreless streak of 21 consecutive innings by Astros starter Cristian Javier, dating to April 8. … First baseman Ji-Man Choi, on the injured list all season after arthroscopic right knee surgery, is scheduled to join Triple-A Durham, which begins its season Tuesday at Memphis. Choi’s return to the Rays is uncertain. Cash said the emphasis is on getting Choi plenty of at-bats and making sure his timing is good. … The Rays have lost a road series against the Angels only once (2014) in their last 10 trips to Anaheim. … Monday is the first time for the Rays to face a Joe Maddon-led Angels team. The Rays faced Maddon’s Cubs home and away in 2017. Only two current Rays, Kevin Kiermaier and Chris Archer, played for Maddon when he managed the Rays from 2006-14.

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