A's-Rays Wild Card Preview: Win or Set a Tee Time

A's-Rays Wild Card Preview: Win or Set a Tee Time

Courtesy of Ivy Chen/JCon Taiwan

The Oakland A's duplicated their mark of a year ago with a record of 97-65 and finished a game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the top spot of the two American League Wild Card berths. However, the Houston Astros (who won the World Series in 2017) finished with an amazing 107 wins. The A's finished in second place and 10 games behind the Astros in the American League West Division.

Thankfully due to the invention of the Wild Card game, the A's live to see another day and unlike 2018, this time they have the home field advantage with the game at the Coliseum. That's the good news. The bad news is the A's haven't won an elimination game since Game 7 of the 1973 World Series. That year, the green and gold beat the exciting "Ya Gotta Believe" Mets team managed by Yogi Berra and featured the final appearance of 42-year old Willie Mays.

Well, that was 46 years ago, and the A's have been snake bit to say the least since sweeping the Giants to win the 1989 World Series. Of course, it would go a long ways to take this win or go home contest.

When the A's played the Wild Card game in 2014 and 2018, they lost both times but both games were on the road. The A's are at home this time and that's a big home field advantage to play at the familiar confines of the Oakland Coliseum vs. the dank, dark Tropicana Field.

"That's a very tough place to play," Manager Bob Melvin said of the Rays domed stadium. "The ballpark conditions, you have to get used to the roof, it's turf, we don't play on that very often. Sometimes the background doesn't seem great with the lights, the roof kind of shows up in the dark, you don't see the ball very well...

"We have played well here (at the Coliseum) this year, our record would suggest that we do play well here and we've had this game a couple of times on the road and that hasn't worked out very well for us so, we know we're going to play in front of our fans here, it's going to be a football type crowd, and I hear Mount Davis is going to be open and it can get pretty raucous here so we're excited about having it here."

Melvin waited until the workout day to announce that lefty Sean Manaea will oppose the Rays' Charlie Morton.

This is huge for the young Manaea, who spent most of the 2019 season on the injured list after recovering from left shoulder surgery.

"It means a lot. I put in a lot of work and getting here was crazy hard," Manaea said to a room full of reporters during Tuesday's workout." But I'm here and I'm glad that the team has faith in me and I'm just thankful for the opportunity. I'm looking forward to it and it's going to be awesome.”

The author of a 2018 no-hitter against the Red Sox, Manaea was 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA in five starts. In 29 2/3 innings he allowed only 16 hits and four runs, walked seven, and had 30 strikeouts. He did give up three home runs, but that is pretty good given the inflation of home runs in the modern game. Manaea didn't pitch against Tampa Bay in 2019 but he's not concerned about not having faced them.

"I'm going into it like any other start," Manaea said. "Not making it any bigger and just continue what I've been doing. I'm going to focus on my strengths and pitch off of that."

The A's record in elimination games is terrible. It is 4-14 in closeout games since 2000.

This may seem obvious, but here are my keys to the game:

Take advantage of playing at home in front of 50,000+ fans and score first.
  • Nothing is more important than playing with a lead, especially when you are facing an ace in Morton who was 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA. Morton was surprisingly consistent.
  • Morton was 8-3 at home and 8-3 on the road. Away from Tropicana Field his ERA was 3.59 and he tossed 90 1/3 innings giving up only 81 hits and struck out 97. He did allow eight home runs so he can be taken deep. The A's are a team that has tremendous power potential hitting a whopping 257 home runs led by the two Matt's, Chapman and Olson.
Manaea needs to have a quality start.
  • This sounds easy enough but most starting pitchers cannot even get through five innings. If the "Throwin' Samoan" can go at least six innings with three or fewer runs, that will go a long ways to preserving the bullpen.
Give the ball to the setup guys and Liam Hendricks.
  • All managers, whether it is Bob Melvin or Bobby Cox has two types of relievers, those that pitch in games with the lead and those that try to keep the game close. Now this is a little different since it is a one game playoff but ideally, get the ball to lefty phenom Jesus Luzardo and righty Chris Bassitt and if the A's hopefully have a two-run lead in the ninth, give the ball to Aussie Liam Hendricks so he can shut the door.
Oakland A's playoff results since 1989:
  • 1990 World Series: Lost to Reds in 4 games
  • 1992 ALCS: Lost to Blue Jays in 6 games
  • 2000 ALDS: Lost to Yankees in 5 games
  • 2001 ALDS: Lost to Yankees in 5 games
  • 2002 ALDS: Lost to Twins in 5 games
  • 2003 ALDS: Lost to Red Sox in 5 games
  • 2006 ALCS: Lost to Tigers in 4 games after sweeping Twins in ALDS
  • 2012 ALDS: Lost to Tigers in 5 games
  • 2013 ALDS: Lost to Tigers in 5 games
  • 2014 ALWC: Lost to Royals 9-8
  • 2018 ALWC: Lost to Yankees 7-2

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