Check the tape: Hot-hitting Díaz leads Rays' win

July 12th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- Apparently, this scorching stretch Yandy Díaz has put together at the plate is a tale of the tape. Or a tale of tape, anyway.

Díaz was in the middle of everything the Rays did offensively during their 10-5 win over the Red Sox on Monday night at Tropicana Field. He finished 3-for-3 with three runs, three RBIs and a pair of hard-hit doubles.

That brought the 30-year-old third baseman’s average over his past 15 games to .500 (27-for-54). Díaz has hit safely in 14 of those games, with multiple hits in 10 of them. He’s smashed 11 doubles over the past two weeks, too, compared to seven in his first 63 games of the season.

“He's on a really impressive run, and we are some kind of appreciative of what he's doing for us,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He's one of the few veterans that have some reps and experience, and he's as hot as I can recall. Just getting big hit after big hit, having great at-bats.”

Díaz always draws his walks and gets on base, so that’s been no surprise. And he tends to hit the ball hard when he makes contact, although it’s often on the ground. But what’s behind this particular run he’s on? Well…

“The secret is the tape that's been put on my shoulder,” he said through interpreter Manny Navarro, smiling. “It’s been giving me some energy.”

When pressed further about this mysterious (or perhaps magical) tape, Díaz initially played coy before admitting that it’s yellow physio tape from the club’s athletic training staff. Whatever it is, it’s clearly working for him.

“Let's tape a couple other guys,” Cash said, grinning. “He's hitting the ball really hard right now. He's always hit the ball hard, but he's really stringing it together day after day, night after night.”

On Monday, Díaz either drove in a run or scored during each of Tampa Bay’s four rallies.

Batting leadoff against Red Sox starter Brayan Bello, Díaz was hit by a pitch in the first inning. Ji-Man Choi worked a walk, second baseman Jonathan Aranda loaded the bases with a one-out single, then Josh Lowe drove in Díaz and Choi with a two-run single. It was an encouraging combination for a Rays team dealing with significant injuries and relying on young hitters: The veterans got on base, and the rookies strung together some hits.

“We're going to have to lean on these guys. We're going to have to lean on some of our depth. We're going to have to lean on some of the guys that we've acquired lately,” Cash said. “That's who we are right now, and hopefully they can continue to make the most of the opportunities.”

Díaz came through again in the second, driving in Luke Raley on a two-out double to left. Choi followed with an RBI single to left, then Randy Arozarena walked to keep the inning going before Aranda delivered an RBI single to right. That gave the Rays a 5-1 lead, although it wouldn’t last long.

The Red Sox scored two runs in the third, one in the fourth and another in the fifth to tie the game. But Díaz doubled in another run off Red Sox lefty Jake Diekman in the sixth, putting the Rays ahead. And Harold Ramírez gave them some breathing room with a pinch-hit single that scored Díaz.

“I like to hit behind him, because I know he's going to be on base,” said Ramírez, who is 8-for-16 with seven RBIs as a pinch-hitter this season. “I really like to hit behind him.”

Díaz and Ramírez teamed up to drive in two more runs in the eighth, with Díaz lofting a sacrifice fly to right before Ramírez swatted another single up the middle.

“Both those guys are putting together some pretty good seasons,” Cash said.

Díaz ended the night hitting .307 with a .418 on-base percentage that ranks third in the Majors behind only the Twins’ Luis Arraez and the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt. He has a chance to become the first Ray with at least 250 at-bats and a .300 average at the All-Star break since Matt Duffy was batting .317 at the break in 2018.

In a game full of swing-and-miss and strikeouts, Díaz is the rare player with more walks (47) than strikeouts (32). He has the Majors’ best walk-to-strikeout ratio at 1.47, better than even Arraez (1.36) and Nationals star Juan Soto (1.35).

“You don't see that very often out of many hitters,” Cash said. “He's unique in that he doesn't strike out [and] he walks a ton. He's just got a knack for seeing balls in the zone and not expanding.”

And when Díaz has gotten his pitch lately, he hasn’t missed. Just check the tape.

“There's a lot of times in this game where you hit the ball hard and you don't get anything to show for it,” Díaz said through Navarro. “Luckily I'm hitting the ball hard and they're falling.

“I think it's both of us, the tape and myself. We're both doing it.”