ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Rays ultimately fell short in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Astros, there were still a lot of memorable moments from an all-around enjoyable 2019 season.
The Rays reached the postseason for the first time since 2013, won three playoff games and enjoyed some superb individual performances along the way. Let’s take a look at the top 10 moments of the ‘19 season.
1. Rays win Wild Card Game
Oct. 2 vs. A’s
Making the postseason as a Wild Card is an accomplishment, but winning the one-game playoff is what gives you a better chance at a World Series run. Yandy Díaz hit a leadoff home run against Sean Manaea, which silenced most of the 54,000 people in attendance at the Oakland Coliseum. Díaz went on to hit a second home run and that was enough support for Charlie Morton and the rest of the Rays' pitching staff. Fittingly, Emilio Pagán got the final two outs in a scoreless ninth against his former team to secure the 5-1 win.
2. Rays are back in the postseason
Sept. 27 vs. Blue Jays
Just minutes after the Indians lost to the Nationals, the Rays took care of business on their end, beating the Blue Jays, 6-2, to clinch their first postseason berth since 2013. Tommy Pham opened the scoring with a two-run home run and Tyler Glasnow tossed 4 1/3 no-hit innings to carry Tampa Bay. As Pagán recorded the final out, the Rays' dugout stormed the field and the celebration carried over into the visitors' clubhouse at Rogers Centre.
3. García clears everything
May 14 vs. Marlins
Avisaíl García has the frame of an NFL linebacker, and he showed off his power with a 471-foot blast in Miami. García’s home run off Marlins starter Caleb Smith cleared the batter’s eye in center field, the longest by a visiting player at Marlins Park and the longest by a Rays player in 2019. García’s home run led Tampa Bay to a 4-0 win over Miami.
4. Meadows and Lowe visit upper deck
April 12 vs. Blue Jays
A set of teammates had never hit home runs to the fifth level at Rogers Centre in the same game, but Brandon Lowe and Austin Meadows changed that in the 11-7 win over the Blue Jays. Meadows became the 21st player to hit a home run to the fourth deck with his third-inning blast. And just three batters later, Lowe became No. 22. Both home runs were projected at 436 feet by Statcast and landed just a few seats apart. The home runs also drew some hilarious reactions from the rest of the Rays’ dugout.
5. Yarbrough almost goes the distance
Aug. 11 vs. Mariners
The Rays haven’t had a complete game in more than three years, which is the longest streak in the Majors, but Ryan Yarbrough was just one out away from ending the drought. In Tampa Bay's 1-0 win against Seattle, Yarbrough allowed just three hits and recorded 26 outs before Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled him in favor of Pagán, who closed it out with a grounder to second base. Yarbrough didn’t get the shutout, but his performance was a top highlight for a Tampa Bay pitching staff that was one of the best in the Majors.
6. d’Arnaud walks it off
July 6 vs. Yankees
After the Yankees tied it up in the top of the ninth on a two-out home run by Aaron Hicks, it looked like Tampa Bay was on its way to another heartbreaking late-inning loss to New York. But Travis d'Arnaud had other plans. The Rays catcher delivered with an opposite-field home run off Chad Green to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 win.
7. Rally in L.A.
Sept. 18 vs. Dodgers
The Rays entered the ninth inning trailing 6-4 and were staring at a crucial two-game sweep against the Dodgers. With Kenley Jansen on the mound, it looked like Tampa Bay was headed for their third straight loss. But in the ninth, Ji-Man Choi delivered with an RBI single and d’Arnaud tied it at 6 with a sacrifice fly. Then in the 11th, Meadows hit a go-ahead home run, leading the Rays to a crucial 8-7 win to earn a split at Dodger Stadium.
8. Choi walks it off
Sept. 24 vs. Yankees
In a week where the Rays needed as many wins as possible in order to make the postseason, Choi came up clutch against the Yankees. With both pitching staffs dominating, the game extended into the 12th inning, but that’s when Choi shined, blasting a walk-off home run off Cory Gearrin to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 win over New York. But perhaps the best part was Choi’s celebration before he crossed home plate. Choi is known for his dances and broke out a soccer-style celebration before getting mobbed by his teammates.
9. d’Arnaud, d’Arnaud, d’Arnaud
July 15 vs. Yankees
While the Rays struggled against the Yankees in 2019, one of the best memories of the season came at Yankee Stadium. With two outs in the ninth inning, d’Arnaud stepped up to the plate against closer Aroldis Chapman, representing the go-ahead run. d’Arnaud, who had already homered twice in the game, hit a Chapman slider just over the reach of Aaron Judge and into the seats, giving d’Arnaud his third homer of the night and Tampa Bay a 5-4 win in the Bronx. d’Arnaud became the first catcher to hit three home runs against the Yanks, and he picked a good time to do it.
10. Rays get revenge in Toronto
July 28 vs. Blue Jays
Just a day after blowing a 9-2 lead in the last three innings against the Blue Jays, the Rays faced an early 8-1 deficit, but were able to return the favor, rallying to win, 10-9, to take the series. Willy Adames and Guillermo Heredia delivered with big hits and Diego Castillo struck out the final two batters in the ninth inning to secure the win. The victory was particularly important because it came just a couple of days after learning Blake Snell would miss at least a month due to arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. It also came just a few days before the Trade Deadline, which could’ve affected how the front office viewed the Deadline.