Rays capitalize with Little League homer in win over Boston

Díaz turns single into two runs as Tampa Bay moves to 6-1 vs. the Red Sox in 2023

June 4th, 2023

BOSTON -- Thanks to the unseasonably cold weather, persistent rain and strong winds blowing in, home runs have been impossible to come by this weekend at Fenway Park.

Little League home runs, apparently, are an exception.

Sloppy defense by the Red Sox turned a sixth-inning Yandy Díaz hit-and-run single into a wild trip around the bases, the highlight of the day for the Rays in their 6-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon.

“It was a crazy play,” Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro.

Facing former Rays pitcher Corey Kluber, Díaz came to the plate in the sixth with two outs and Manuel Margot on first base. The muscular infielder chopped a ball through the right side, then all kinds of chaos unfolded as Tampa Bay extended its lead from 4-2 to 6-2.

Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo was slow to get to the ball and even slower to throw it, so Margot aggressively rounded third and sprinted home after a heads-up send from third-base coach Brady Williams. Verdugo took the blame, saying he lost sight of the ball and didn’t see it until it reached the outfield, which led to his delayed reaction.

Verdugo eventually got the ball to second baseman Enmanuel Valdez, whose throw to catcher Connor Wong was up the first-base line and far too late to nab Margot at the plate.

“I was surprised that I was being sent. I knew the ball was hit and it was slow, but I know I was pressing to even get to third,” Margot said through Navarro. “So when [Williams] was sending me, it was kind of interesting.”

With Díaz still running, Wong fired a throw back toward second base -- but in between Valdez and shortstop Kiké Hernández. The ball rolled into center field, where Verdugo was the first Red Sox player to reach it because center fielder Jarren Duran had followed the batted ball into right field.

At that point, Díaz said, he knew he was going to score.

“It took a little while for them to get to the ball after Yandy kind of dribbled it past the second baseman, and then a lot of things kind of went in our favor,” manager Kevin Cash said. “It was a pretty unique play. You don't see that very often.”

Verdugo tossed the ball back toward the infield, but Díaz was headed home by that point, a smile spread across his face as he crossed the plate and leaned into outfielder Josh Lowe’s embrace.

“He's coming around third with a smile on his face, like he can't believe it just happened,” said Rays starter Taj Bradley, who struck out six over five solid innings. “That's just one of those funny things in baseball. It reminds you it's a kid’s sport.”

So did the other reactions to Díaz’s dash around the bases.

“Get him water and oxygen,” Cash quipped.

“I got him a water,” Margot added, smiling.

“Even right now, my legs are really tired,” Díaz said. “I think I needed oxygen.”

Of course, whatever fatigue Díaz felt in that moment -- and afterward, apparently -- was the least of the Rays’ physical concerns on Sunday. 

Due to several different injury issues, Cash had to write up three different lineups during what he called a “little hectic” period before first pitch.

Luke Raley (mild intercostal strain) and Margot (sore ribs) started Sunday and came through with key hits despite being banged up on Saturday. Wander Franco (sore left hamstring) was unavailable, and late scratches of Jose Siri (shoulder soreness) and Brandon Lowe (back tightness) threw their initial plans into further disarray.

“There were guys that were supposed to have off-days and [we] kind of got that thrown out the window with 20 or 30 minutes before the game,” Brandon Lowe said. “For them to be able to turn it on and go out there and grind out at-bats on what was another just brutal day to play baseball, really, hats off to those guys.”

But the Rays put together another team effort as they improved to 6-1 against the Red Sox this season and 42-19 overall on the year heading into Monday’s rescheduled series finale. Josh Lowe drove in the game’s first run against Tanner Houck, a Margot single scored two in the fourth, and Raley ripped an RBI double to right in the fifth to support a strong pitching performance by Bradley and three relievers.

“That's what we do,” Raley said. “We're kind of a group of grinders. We play for one another.”