Oakland Athletics: Sean Manaea is the obvious choice to start the Wild Card Game

Oakland Athletics (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Athletics will have to make a decision regarding who will start the Wild Card Game. The obvious choice is also the correct one in Sean Manaea.

The Oakland Athletics will return to the AL Wild Card Game for the second consecutive year this season after clinching a playoff berth this past Friday by way of a Cleveland Indians loss. And when it comes to selecting a starter for Wednesday’s game, the clear pick is Sean Manaea.

What the Athletics have been able to accomplish over the past two years is something that should not and cannot be ignored. After being odds-on favorites to finish dead last in the AL West last season, the A’s surprised the MLB world and finished with 97 wins.

And despite a 2019 season that has seen the team suffer from plenty of misfortune, the A’s came back and totaled another 95+ win season. All of this despite a bottom-six payroll in baseball.

Meanwhile the Boston Red Sox — the MLB’s most expensive team — will be sitting at home this October.

And now with the postseason in their sights, the A’s will have to decide who they would like to start their one-game Wild Card playoff against the Tampa Bay Rays. Charlie Morton has already been designated the starter for Tampa Bay but the A’s have not named his opponent just yet.

Last season, Oakland opted to go with a bullpen game as Liam Hendriks was used as the opener. Unfortunately, that strategy didn’t exactly go according to plan as Hendriks allowed two runs in the first inning.

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The A’s fell behind early to the New York Yankees and simply couldn’t recover. They cannot allow that to happen this year — especially against a pitcher as dominant as Morton.

The starter hasn’t been decided yet, but there does seem to be two likely candidates — that being Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers.

Fiers has been perhaps the A’s most consistent pitcher for much of the season with a 3.90 ERA in 33 starts this year. He put together a particularly strong stretch earlier in the middle of the season when he won 12 straight decisions.

However, the month of September hasn’t been nearly as kind to him.

Fiers has won just one of his five starts this month and holds a very poor 7.84 ERA over that time. Yes, his ERA was inflated by a nine-run first inning earlier in the month against the Houston Astros. But it’s safe to say that September hasn’t been his strongest month.

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On the other hand, Sean Manaea has had about as good of a month as anyone in baseball.

Manaea is 4-0 in his five September starts with a phenomenal 1.21 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. In 29.2 innings pitched, the 27-year-old has managed 30 strikeouts as compared to just seven walks.

There have been few better pitchers in baseball since his return from major shoulder surgery this month.

And that’s the thing, we haven’t seen Manaea much at all this season and he has yet to face the Rays this year. That could give him an edge as his opponents will have yet to see him in action in 2019.

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Moreover, it’s not as if the Rays’ lefty/righty splits are helpful in any way. Tampa Bay is slashing .255/.326/.422 against lefties as compared to a .254/.326/.437 slash line against righties.

It’s honestly crazy how indifferent they have been towards handedness.

If anything, those 15 points of slugging percentage are even more of a reason to go with the southpaw lefty over Fiers.

Fiers may have been the most consistently reliable pitcher for the A’s this season, but it would be wise to ride the hot hand with Manaea in this one. And since it will be all hands on deck regardless, we may very well see both in this game — especially with Blake Treinen out.

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Manaea is the obvious choice to start the Wild Card Game and he also just so happens to be the correct choice.