MINNEAPOLIS — Throughout all that has gone wrong this season — and there was more Monday with Jose Siri fracturing his right hand — Yandy Diaz has been the leading man for the Rays offense.
And as they head into the final three weeks of the regular season, with a showdown series looming in Baltimore and a strong preference to go into the postseason as a division winner rather than a wild card, Diaz wants to do everything he can.
Monday, that meant rapping a career high-tying four hits, including his 20th homer, as the Rays continue their run against contenders with strong pitching, beating the Twins 7-4.
“He’s having a special season; (Monday) was another example of it,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He should be getting some MVP consideration with what he’s done offensively. ... To hit (.324) and have the home runs and the RBIs (71) from the leadoff spot is pretty special.”
With a four-game series against the American League East-leading Orioles starting Thursday, the Rays have been on a pretty good roll, winning three straight over the wild-card-contending Mariners and their strong rotation, then knocking out Sonny Gray in beating the AL Central-leading Twins on Monday.
“It’s good,” said shortstop Taylor Walls, who hit a three-run homer. “We’re rolling at the right time. We’re going to see tough arms down the stretch, especially in the postseason. So when guys can go out there and have good at-bats, guys can get on base, give us chances and opportunities to score and we can come through in some big situations, it’s always nice.”
The win improved the Rays to 89-56 overall, as they won for the 15th time in their last 20 games and 27th in 40. They remained three games behind the Orioles, who won again in a series opener against St. Louis.
Siri was hit on the right hand by a Dylan Floro pitch in the fifth inning, sustaining a non-displaced fracture on the bottom side of his right hand. Cash said there is some hope that Siri could make a quick return, potentially around the start of the playoffs, but they will know more after he sees team hand specialist Dr. Doug Carlan in St. Petersburg.
With Diaz and Walls leading the way, the Rays grabbed an early lead and extended it to 7-1.
Tyler Glasnow, who struck out a career high-tying 14 in his previous outing, made it work, getting off to a quick start of his own in striking out five of the first six Twins and eight overall. His only real trouble came in the sixth, when Edouard Julien and Alex Kirilloff led off with singles, then Royce Lewis blasted a 419-foot, 112.9-mph homer to right to make it 7-4. The bullpen took it from there, with Pete Fairbanks picking up his 23rd save.
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“I thought Tyler was outstanding again,” Cash said. “He’d probably like to have the slider back to Lewis, but the two guys that got on ahead of him were ground balls, first- and second-pitch ground balls. He was really, really good.”
Glasnow said he wasn’t as much in synch in his last start, which was his best of the season in all facets, but not far off.
“The first inning felt great,” he said. “I think maybe just a bit out of rhythm the rest of the time and then that last inning kind of sucked a little bit. But for the most part relatively good. ...
“I guess that’s just kind of how it is sometimes, you’re not going to feel perfect all the time. I still felt fine, just not as good as the last one, I guess.”
Diaz singled and came around to score in the first inning, singled in the second, doubled in the fourth and homered in the sixth, extending his career high, which had been 14, to 20 and eyeing a run at 30. He had two chances to tie the team record of five hits in a game, and/or to hit a triple for a cycle, but grounded out to short in the seventh and flied to deep center in the ninth.
“The fifth at-bat I hit it hard and obviously it didn’t go through,” he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “That sixth at-bat I was trying to do the same thing, it just didn’t fall.”
Diaz said he made a slight adjustment in his swing, and that has been working.
“Thank God I feel good,” he said, “So I can finish strong and then I can help the team win as much as I can.”
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