AL Wild-Card Preview
The Tampa Bay Rays (96-66) will travel to Oakland in a single-elimination battle against the Athletics (97-65). The game will be a fierce pitching battle as AL CY Young candidate Charlie Morton squares up against Sean Manea.
The two teams both exceeded expectations this year as the Rays and A’s rank 30th and 23rd in MLB salaries, respectively.
Tampa Bay, who is known for its extensive use of openers reached the playoffs by having depth and an incredible outfield. There are no star players for Tampa Bay, but the versatility on the roster has led them to the playoffs.
On the other hand, the A’s made few changes from last year’s team that lost in the AL wild-card game to the Yankees. However, Billy Beane signed Brett Anderson and recently promoted Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk to the Major League roster.
The most intriguing matchup of the game will be how Oakland’s offense attacks Morton. Morton, who won the World Series with Houston two years ago was dominant throughout the entire season. The 35-year-old put together a 3.05 ERA this season through 194.2 innings with a 30.4% strikeout rate.
Oakland’s offense is superior to Tampa Bay’s as its lineup contains Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Mark Canha. However, it's going to be difficult for the Athletics to score as Rays relievers posted a 3.71 ERA this season, which led the majors.
Sean Manea will get the start for the Athletics, which will make it difficult for a Tampa Bay offense headlined by Jesus Aguilar and Nate Lowe. Manea did not pitch against Tampa Bay during the regular season since he just returned from Tommy John surgery. However, in five starts, Manea owns a 1.21 ERA and a 30:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The combination of Manea and Oakland’s defense will be problematic for Tampa Bay. The Athletics ranked No.1 in unearned runs (34). The team also had franchise records of fewest errors in a season (80) and best fielding percentage (.967).
The Coliseum will give the Athletics a boost on Wednesday as over 50,000 fans are expected to make the game, which is much more than their season average of 20,521. Oakland will look to take advantage of the sold-out stadium as it ranked fourth in the league in home wins this year. However, Tampa Bay also ranked No. 2 in road wins.
Both teams enter the game playing well in the last stretch of the season. Tampa Bay is more poised for a deep playoff run because of its stable pitching rotation. However, the combination of Oakland’s defense and Manaea will prevent Tampa Bay from scoring, which will propel the Athletics to victory.
Prediction: Athletics 2, Rays 0
Matthew White is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism with a double minor in business and spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Junior / Public Relations, Business, Spanish