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TGT AL Wildcard Playoff Preview and Prediction: Tampa Bay at Oakland

Who advances?
Source: USA Today

The Oakland Athletics will host the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Wild Card Game. Both teams finished the year very strong and whoever wins this game could be a serious contender for the AL Pennant. The A’s have played well at home this season but are they the best bet in this showdown or is Tampa Bay worth a flier? Let’s take a look at this interesting matchup?

Something has got to give

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Oakland has the fourth-best home record in baseball and the Rays hold the second-best road record in baseball, so something has to give in this one. Oakland having the Wild Card game at home is a significant edge. The team is expecting the crowd to surpass 50,000 in size, which would dwarf their normal 20,521 average. The Rays, on the other hand, trail only the Minnesota Twins when it comes to road record.

Intriguing pitching matchup

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It looks like the A’s will go with Sean Manaea as their starter. The 27-year-old was injured for much of the year but was dominant in his return in September. In his five starts this season, Manaea posted a 1.21 ERA with a 0.78 WHIP and a sparkling 30:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s the hot hand right now. He is really, in my opinion, the clear choice to start for Oakland in this win or go home contest.

The Rays have a clear choice and that means Charlie Morton will be taking the mound. Morton finished the year 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. The team has won five straight times that he’s pitched in and 17 of the last 21. Morton has faced the A’s twice this season and has allowed one earned run and six hits in 13.1 innings of work.

The advantage in pitching seems to lie with the Rays as Morton is the more proven starter and has had great success so far this season against the Rays.

Who wins

The Rays were 37-17 in their last 54 games while the A’s were 38-17 in their last 55. This matchup is tight, so in my opinion, go with the most consistent starter and that means take Charlie Morton and the Rays in this one. I expect a low scoring game and Morton to prevail. The Rays need an early led so the Oakland bullpen is not as big a factor in this game.

Rays 3  A’s 2

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