AL Wild Card Game- Rays win with depth.

Charlie Morton (Tampa Bay Rays) at Sean Manaea (Oakland Athletics)

Starting Pitcher: Advantage…..

Every part of me wants to say the Rays have the advantage with veteran Charlie Morton on the mound. Morton has the most experience of any pitcher on either staff, spending the last two seasons with the Houston Astros, most notably his performance in the 2017 World Series.  Morton came out of the bullpen, dominating his 10+ innings. Morton has found success in his curveball even more in 2019, throwing it as a much higher rate.  Opposing batter are hitting just .151 against old Uncle Charlie. 

Sean Manaea has returned from injury, immediately regaining his form has the A’s frontline starter(1.21 ERA with with a 30-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Manaea lack of experience is a big deal under the pressure of what the Wild Card game brings.  He has a great future ahead of him.  This game will be what allows us to find out what and who he is.

Bullpen: Advantage Rays

The Athletics have a premier closer in Liam Hendricks as well as a “secret weapon” Jesus Luzardo. The Athletics don’t have the depth of the Rays, but they do have two guys that can be impactful if the they get the lead.  

The Rays finished first in the MLB with a 3.71 bullpen ERA and in September the ERA was a staggering 2.87. Tampa Bay has multiple assets that can be called upon at any moment.  Chaz Roe, Emilio Pagan, Oliver Drake and Diego Castillo could all be called upon as soon as the first sign of trouble comes. In a one game scenario the matchups will be the difference.

Lineup + Bench: Advantage Rays

Tampa Bay doesn’t have the premier big bats that Oakland brings to the table.  They don’t have a Matt Olson, Marcus Semien or Matt Chapman. The Rays will utilize their matchups Tommy Pham, Travis d’Arnaud, Avi Garcia and the returning Yandy Diaz all have great numbers versus lefties on the season.

Oakland will need the middle of the order to step up and make things happen. Marcus Semien and Matt Olson bring the power and name recognition that the Rays don’t have.  The bottom of their order doesn’t have the same pop.  The Rays will carry more depth into this matchup. Whi

Prediction

I want to go with the Athletics.  Every part of me says they are going to utilize their power.  I have a tough time backing Sean Manaea in this situation.  While his ERA is very appealing there seems to be a regression on the way for the Oakland lefty.  Of his five starts only one was against a winning team.  Charlie Morton’s experience and Kevin Cash’s ability to play the matchup game will be too much for the Athletics. I am rolling with the Rays.

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