OAKLAND, Calif. – Will the Rays be all right if the A’s start lefty Sean Manaea?
The A’s are still waiting to reveal their starting pitcher for Wednesday’s AL wild card game, with Manaea seemingly the more likely choice than righty Mike Fiers. Though Manaea has pitched in only five games since returning from off-season shoulder surgery, he has pitched very well (4-0, 1.21) and seems likely to get the nod when it is announced Tuesday as both teams have workouts and media sessions at the Oakland Coliseum.
The A’s are said to like the idea of starting a lefty against the Rays, though their numbers aren’t much different.The Rays during the season hit .253 with a .761 OPS against right-handers and .255 and a .748 OPS against lefties. They went 64-41 (.610) in games started by right-handers, 32-25 (.561) versus lefties.
The big impact of the decision would be on the Rays lineup, as Ji-Man Choi, Brandon Lowe and possibly Joey Wendle would be on the bench if Manaea starts. During the season, the Rays posted relatively similar stats both ways. The Rays could go with Jesus Aguilar at first or, in a somewhat bolder move, starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud at first and having better defense behind the plate with Mike Zunino catching. Daniel Robertson could be an option at second, with Matt Duffy likely to start at third.
The pitching decision also will factor in who the Rays include on their 25-man roster, which does not have to be submitted until 1 p.m. EST Wednesday. Among other decisions for the Rays are whether to include Brendan McKay, a reliever with the added benefit of also having him available as a pinch-hitter.
Latest Meadows honor: AL Player of the Month
It did not go unnoticed that Austin Meadows’ bat was a huge reason the Rays are in Wednesday’s American League wild card game. The rightfielder was named the AL player of the month on Monday after hitting .378 with nine home runs, 20 RBI and 15 walks in 24 September games. In his first full big-league season, Meadows led the Rays in homers (33), RBI (89), batting average (.291) and slugging percentage (.558). Meadows is just the third Tampa Bay player to win a monthly player award, following B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria who both won in 2009.
Pagan downplays A’s connection
Emilio Pagan was on the A’s roster for last year’s wild-card game. Now he’s the Rays closer for this year’s wild-card game against the A’s. He’d prefer you didn’t notice the obvious irony. “More than anything, it’s just cool to be in the playoffs two years in a row,’’ Pagan said. “I wouldn’t want to make the storyline me versus Oakland. It’s just two really good teams. It’s going to be a fun game for fans to watch two teams that really have a lot of young guys mixed in with some really good veterans.
"It’s going to be good baseball.’’
Pagan received a text message after Friday’s clinching from A’s closer Liam Hendriks, and sent one back with his congrats to the A’s. Like two other former A’s in the Rays clubhouse, Eric Sogard and Joey Wendle, they’ve been going back and forth with their ex-mates. “All friendly,’’ Wendle said.
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The Rays flew west straight from Toronto and enjoyed an off-day on Monday in San Francisco. ... Chad Fairchild will be the home plate umpire with a crew of Fieldin Culbreth (1B), Bill Miller (2B), Chris Guccione (3B), Lance Barrett (LF), Adam Hamari (RF). … Wednesday’s game will be the Rays’ second appearance in the AL wild-card game, having beaten the Indians in 2013, and the fifth winner-take-all-game in franchise history.
Staff writer John Romano contributed to this report. Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.