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Rays’ Yandy Diaz hits career-high 15th home run of the season

Notes | The infielder with the bulging biceps has downplayed power numbers in the past but is happy to reach a milestone.
 
The Rays' Yandy Diaz gestures as he reaches home plate after hitting his 15th home run of the season, during the third inning against the Yankees on Tuesday night in New York.
The Rays' Yandy Diaz gestures as he reaches home plate after hitting his 15th home run of the season, during the third inning against the Yankees on Tuesday night in New York. [ FRANK FRANKLIN II | AP ]
Published Aug. 2, 2023|Updated Aug. 2, 2023

NEW YORK — In Yandy Diaz’s first season with the Rays following a December 2018 trade from Cleveland, he hit 14 homers playing in only 79 games, increasing the expectation for big power numbers from the guy with the bulging biceps.

But Diaz’s swing wasn’t conducive to hitting the ball in the air. In the minors, he never hit more than nine in a season. In his next three big-league seasons, while also dealing with injuries, he connected for two, 13 and nine homers. He and the Rays accepted what he did best, which was hit the ball hard often.

But Diaz, it turns out, wanted more, and Tuesday he got there, hitting his 15th homer of the season for a new career high.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a few years now,” Diaz said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Thank God I’ve been able to get that out of my head and I was able to hit it.”

He did so Tuesday at a key time, a shot to right-center leading off the third inning against Yankees lefty Carlos Rodon, expanding the Rays’ lead from 1-0 to 2-0 as they won their third straight, beating the Yankees 5-2.

“It felt good,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to connect with that 15th home run (Tuesday).”

Manager Kevin Cash said the coaches and staff tease Diaz about not taking advantage of the short rightfield porch at Yankee Stadium previously, so were glad he did. And for a milestone homer.

“Happy for Yandy,” Cash said. “I feel like he’s probably not as locked in as we’ve seen him throughout the course of the season. He’s going to get locked in and he’s going to hit some more for us.”

Shane McClanahan set to face Yankees

Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan winds up during the first inning of Friday's game against the Astros in Houston.
Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan winds up during the first inning of Friday's game against the Astros in Houston. [ KEVIN M. COX | AP ]

Shane McClanahan starts for the Rays in Wednesday’s series finale at Yankee Stadium, confident there was progress in his last outing. That was Friday in Houston when he worked five innings, allowing a 3-0 lead to get away, scattering eight hits, striking out six and walking none in a game the Rays came back to win.

McClanahan is winless over his last five outings, going back to the June 22 start of his bout with back tightness, and has a 6.65 ERA over that span.

“I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball better than I guess my line would indicate,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been feeling really good out there. I feel like I’ve been spinning the ball better, locating better. It’s just one of those things where I’ve got to keep going and it’ll sort itself out.”

McClanahan said the key to his improvement has been “getting some things right mechanically,” which has resulted in an uptick in velocity. “Just kind of working every single week, whether it’s physically, mentally or everything in between,” he said.

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McClanahan will be matched up with Yankees ace, and fellow All-Star, Gerrit Cole.

“I’ve had a chance the last couple years to kind of pick his brain, watch the way he works,” McClanahan said. “I love pitching him and I think everybody can say that it’s a great atmosphere. You love competing against the best of the best and it’s going to be fun Wednesday.”

Tyler Glasnow returning to form

Tyler Glasnow delivered another strong start on Monday, further evidence of his return to top form after rejoining the Rays at the end of last season following his recovery and rehab from August 2021 Tommy John surgery, then missing the first two months of this season due to an oblique strain.

Glasnow said the key has been getting back into a routine, which has allowed him to get his delivery timed up right — always a challenge with his long arms and legs — and “more rhythmic.”

While he’s not pitching the same way he did before the elbow injury that led to surgery, he is doing just as well if not better — noted in his 3-1, 1.65 mark over his last five starts.

“(The) stuff may be a little different — like the slider’s different, certain carry stuff with the heater is different,” he said. “But I think in terms of execution, I do feel good.”

Miscellany

Rays hitters walked a season high-matching seven times Tuesday. ... After Colin Poche allowed two in and had two on in the ninth, Cash summoned Pete Fairbanks to strike out Giancarlo Stanton for the final out. ... Reliever Andrew Kittredge continues to work through his Tommy John rehab assignment at Durham, but isn’t likely to rejoin the Rays until mid- to late-August. … Catcher Francisco Mejia, sidelined since July 21 with a left knee sprain, is doing well and could return by late August. … Infielder Taylor Walls, sidelined the same time by a left oblique strain, is likely looking more at a September return. ... Lefty Josh Fleming, out since early June with elbow inflammation, threw four shutout innings in his second rehab outing for Triple-A Durham.

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