The Oakland A’s waited until Tuesday to name their starter for the upcoming AL Wild Card Game, but it’s now official: Sean Manaea will get the ball on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The decision came down to Manaea or Mike Fiers, but the nod goes to Manaea. That’s quite a turnaround for the left-hander, who was the team’s top starter in 2018 but spent the first five months of this season on the injured list while recovering from shoulder surgery. He was brilliant upon his return to action in September, and it only took him five starts to re-prove himself.
Manaea, 2019: 1.21 ERA, 29⅔ ip, 30 Ks, 7 BB, 3 HR, 3.42 FIP
Despite averaging just under 90 mph on his fastball, Manaea still missed plenty of bats, with the highest swinging strike rate in the A’s rotation. He makes up for that lack of velocity with his command, his strong slider and changeup, and a deceptive arm angle and delivery that’s tough for batters to pick up.
The last time Manaea faced the Rays was in May of 2018, against a much different lineup than he’ll see on Wednesday. The only current Rays with more than six career plate appearances against him are catcher Mike Zunino and backup outfielder Guillermo Heredia.
Meanwhile, the Rays will send All-Star starter Charlie Morton to the mound. Click here for a full scouting report on Morton.
Although Fiers didn’t get chosen to start the Wild Card Game, he will at least be on the active roster for Oakland, as a long relief option just in case. However, outfielder Stephen Piscotty will not be on the roster — he missed the final month to a high-ankle sprain, and only returned in time to play the final game of the regular season.
For more details, and lots of quotes from both managers, here’s my writeup for the S.F. Examiner. Oh, and one other thing: