Yandy Diaz celebrates 32nd birthday by leading Rays past Cardinals

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ST. PETERSBURG — Yandy Diaz’s teammates recognized his 32nd birthday Tuesday with a band that played Puerto Rican plena music for him on the field before the game.

The first baseman then went out and celebrated in his own way, with a career high-tying four hits in the Rays’ 4-2 win over the Cardinals in front of 15,522 at Tropicana Field. He drove in the go-ahead run during Tampa Bay’s three-run, eighth-inning rally.

“It looks like the band brought me good luck (Tuesday),” Diaz said through team interpreter Manny Navarro. “So, I think we have to bring them all the time.”

The Rays improved to 69-46 this season and 38-19 at home, and won for the ninth time in their last 10 games against the Cardinals (49-65).

The game marked the sixth time in his career and the second time this season Diaz had four hits. He became the third player in Rays history to record four or more hits on his birthday, joining Carl Crawford and Randy Winn. He is the fifth hitter in team annals with a game-winning RBI on his birthday, following Herbert Perry, Mike DiFelice, Michael Perez and Ji-Man Choi, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Yandy Diaz (2) celebrates hitting an RBI single in the eighth inning.

[ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Diaz’s single up the middle in the eighth inning scored Josh Lowe, who had tripled to lead off the inning. The hit broke open a game that had been tied at 1.

“He’s led us in so many ways offensively, and he just gives such a big at-bat, none bigger than the one with (Lowe) on third base and one out,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “That contact, and the infield’s in, there’s a lot of room out there to find it, and he seems like probably the right guy to have up there.”

Diaz’s hit started a progression of six straight Rays reaching base (Luke Raley on a fielder’s choice). Wander Franco followed Diaz with a single, and Brandon Lowe brought in Diaz with an RBI single of his own. Randy Arozarena then singled in Franco.

One inning earlier, Isaac Paredes hit his 22nd home run of the season, a 383-foot shot to leftfield that got Zach Eflin off the hook. Nolan Arenado hammered a 378-foot home run off Eflin in the second inning to give the Cardinals their only run off the right-hander.

Eflin, who remained 12-6 after the no-decision, went seven innings, holding St. Louis to one run on four hits. He struck out eight.

Eflin said the Rays are thinking of bringing back the band, which was hired by reliever Jake Diekman, to keep Diaz going.

“A lot of us were talking,” Eflin said “I think that’s something we’re thinking about maybe every day, because he went 4-for-4 and had the go-ahead run. So, it was an awesome day. I think everybody had a really good day at the park, and that’s kind of what we need to come back home to.”

Rays starter Zach Eflin delivers a pitch during the first inning.

[ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

For the first time at home this season, Eflin did not factor into a decision. But he made a huge contribution to the Rays’ pitching staff.

Eflin went seven innings, which is exactly what the Rays needed on a day when there was so much uncertainty about their rotation.

Before the game, Cash told reporters it is “highly unlikely” Shane McClanahan will pitch again this season as he faces the possibility of surgery on his left forearm. The Rays are “hoping” Tyler Glasnow, who was scratched from Sunday’s scheduled start with back spasms, would react well to a shot and be able to start on Saturday.

“Very (impressive),” Cash said. “(Eflin) had it all going (Tuesday) — sinker, cutter, some big breaking balls in there, picked up his strikeouts.”

Rays rightfielder Josh Lowe (15) reacts after hitting a triple in the eighth inning.

[ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Lowe saw his eighth-inning fly ball bobbled by the Cardinals’ outfielders and rounded second at full speed before just beating the throw at third. After seeing the Rays held to one run through seven innings, he knew they needed a jolt.

“Absolutely,” Lowe said. “I knew we had a chance to get going right there.”

Lowe held at third as Harold Ramirez grounded out, but when he saw Diaz come to the plate he knew there was a good chance he’d score the go-ahead run.

“I mean, it’s his birthday,” Lowe said with a laugh. “And going up there — I’m confident with anybody going to the plate in that situation — but to have Yandy, that was huge. We all know he can get it done.”

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