The Oakland A’s will play in the Wild Card Game next week, for the third time in the last six years. They’re still searching for their first win in this one-and-done postseason opener, but this time things will be different: They’ll get to play at home.
The 2019 AL Wild Card race has finalized after 161 regular season games, and the A’s will host the Tampa Bay Rays at the Coliseum. The winner moves on to the ALDS, and the loser is eliminated from the playoffs.
The Wild Card Game will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 2, with first pitch at 5:09 p.m. PT. It will be televised on ESPN.
These two teams faced off seven times this summer, all in June, with the A’s winning four of them. The green-and-gold took 2-of-3 in Tampa Bay, and then split a four-game set in Oakland. (Fun fact: All three A’s losses were recorded by pitchers named Anderson, twice Tanner and once Brett.) The A’s have 97 wins overall to the Rays’ 96, but even if they finish in a tie after Sunday’s season finale, Oakland would hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head record.
The starting pitchers haven’t yet been officially announced, but Rays manager Kevin Cash effectively confirmed that he will hand the ball to Charlie Morton. The right-hander just had his best season yet after arriving as a free agent last winter, setting career-highs across the board with 194⅔ innings, 240 strikeouts, a 3.05 ERA, and a 2.82 FIP, all while maintaining one of the lowest homer rates in the sport.
Morton faced the A’s twice this season and shut them down both times. He tossed 13 total innings and allowed just one run on a solo homer by Jurickson Profar, while striking out 13 batters.
For the A’s, the likeliest options appear to be Sean Manaea or Mike Fiers. They are the team’s top two starters right now and each of them would be on at least normal rest if not more. Manaea has only made five starts since returning from shoulder surgery but has been brilliant, with a 1.21 ERA and a strikeout per inning. Fiers was the club’s most reliable arm all summer, including quality starts in both his outings against the Rays for a total of three runs in 12 innings.
For now, the rumors seem to be leaning toward Manaea, as Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle reported that VP Billy Beane “hinted” that the left-hander “might have the inside track.”
Either way, the Coliseum figures to be rocking in support of its pitcher, which should be a welcome change after the A’s last two Wild Card Game experiences came on the road in Kansas City (2014) and New York (2018).
Bob Melvin on securing home-field: “There’s gonna be 50,000 people in Oakland, I got a feeling. When we get that big a crowd at home, they have an effect. We’re excited about going home. There’s a great bond between us and the fans there, and they can get pretty loud.”— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) September 29, 2019
“There’s gonna be 50,000 people in Oakland, I got a feeling. When we get that big a crowd at home, they have an effect. We’re excited about going home. There’s a great bond between us and the fans there, and they can get pretty loud.” -Bob Melvin
Brett Anderson tells reporters he expects the Coliseum to be electric: "I've pitched at the Coliseum in the playoffs before. There's not an atmosphere like it. It's going to be rowdy. It will be fun to watch." #Athletics— Ben Ross (@BenRossTweets) September 29, 2019
“I’ve pitched at the Coliseum in the playoffs before. There’s not an atmosphere like it. It’s going to be rowdy. It will be fun to watch.” -Brett Anderson
The winner of Wednesday’s game will move on to the ALDS to play the Houston Astros in a five-game series.