Low-budget Rays, A’s meet in AL wild-card game at Oakland
OAKLAND, Calif. — Bob Melvin has been counting on his young Oakland Athletics to build on last season’s playoff return that ended in a lopsided wild-card loss at Yankee Stadium.
Gain some experience under pressure. Get a little feel for October baseball. Understand how much has to go right to win on the big stage.
Reaching the division series again would be a significant step this easygoing group knows it must take now. The A’s have lost eight straight winner-take-all games since 2000, going 1-14 with a chance to advance to the next round. Their only win was in 2006 against the Twins before being swept in the AL championship series by the Tigers.
“I’ve never pitched in front of 50,000 people,” said A’s left-hander Sean Manaea, who will be making his first playoff start at age 27 and after missing nearly a year following shoulder surgery.
This is a wild-card matchup featuring two of baseball’s lowest-spending franchises — Tampa Bay ranks last at $66.4 million, and Oakland sits 25th at $95.3 million. The A’s won 97 games, the Rays 96.
“I knew last year this team was good,” Rays pitcher, Cy Young Award candidate and former Pittsburgh Pirates starter Charlie Morton said. “The A’s being good is good for baseball.”
Morton went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 240 strikeouts. He allowed just one run in 131⁄3 innings against the A’s this season.
For weeks, Tampa Bay planned for Morton to start this game if the Rays made it.
“We wouldn’t want anybody else out there right now,” Cash said.