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Diaz hits incredible wall-scraping homer in win

Facing ex-team, Morton K's 8, and 'pen finishes first win of season
@juanctoribio
March 29, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Kevin Cash has seen a lot of home runs at Tropicana Field over his four-plus seasons at the helm, but Yandy Díaz’s stands in a class of its own. Despite having a launch angle of just 17 degrees, Diaz drove the ball 420 feet to

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Kevin Cash has seen a lot of home runs at Tropicana Field over his four-plus seasons at the helm, but Yandy Díaz’s stands in a class of its own.

Despite having a launch angle of just 17 degrees, Diaz drove the ball 420 feet to straightaway center field in the sixth inning to give the Rays some insurance in Friday’s 4-2 win over the Astros. Statcast recorded the home run at 112.2 mph off the bat.

“I haven’t seen a ball ever hit like that at this ballpark,” Cash said. “That was impressive.”

In his two seasons with the Indians, Diaz hit one home run in 265 at-bats. Because of that, he spent the spring working on his swing in order to drive the ball for more power. Last season, Diaz’s launch angle averaged 4.4 degrees -- near the bottom of baseball -- but his exit velocity was among the league’s best at 92.1 mph.

“We knew when we acquired him that he has a knack for really hitting the ball hard,” Cash said. “That kind of proved it.”

The Rays knew Diaz could hit, but Friday’s shot was something they’d never seen before.

“That was hit like 200 miles per hour off the bat,” shortstop Willy Adames said. “I know he’s going to help us a lot to win a lot of games.”

Morton shines in Rays debut
In his first start for the Rays, Charlie Morton gave up two runs and struck out eight in five innings against his former team. Seven strikeouts came on Morton’s signature curveball.

“To be able to show it to that team that has seen it more than anybody the last couple of years, I know they’re not in the box against him all the time, but they have a pretty good sense of what they’re trying to do,” Cash said. “For him to do that against his [former] club, it shows how good it was.”

Morton, who helped the Astros win a World Series in 2017, admitted that it was “weird” facing some of his old teammates, but he was glad that his new team came away with its first win of the season.

“It was an awesome experience,” Morton said. “There was the fact that I threw against my former team and I was a little emotional. It was good to get it out of the way and come out with a good team win.”

Bullpen shuts the door
Cash turned to his bullpen to shut down a powerful Astros lineup over the last four innings. Diego Castillo pitched two scoreless innings before handing the ball over to Chaz Roe, who retired two of the three hitters he faced. Adam Kolarek got the last out in the eighth inning, and José Alvarado secured his first save of the season.

The Rays' bullpen has the potential to be one of their strengths, and it passed the first test.

“They were outstanding,” Cash said. “It lined up really well. The only thing that didn’t was the four-pitch walk from Chaz [to George Springer], but other than that, he hunkered down and made some big pitches to get the two guys. Kolarek comes in and does his thing, and then obviously Jose.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.