Now let’s set the scene with some essentials. 
Wednesday night in the Bay Area, the Oakland Athletics are hosting the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Wild Card Game. The winner of this must-win, single-elimination affair will advance to the best-of-five American League Division Series to face the Astros (full schedule here). The loser, meantime, will be headed home for the offseason. 
On the other side, the lefty Manaea missed almost the entire 2019 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. In the five starts since his return, however, he’s been dominant: 1.21 ERA, 30 strikeouts against seven walks in 29 2/3 innings. The Ray’s offense this season was slightly worse against left-handed pitching. 

How to watch

The SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) sees the A’s as slight favorites. The system gives Oakland a 54.1 percent chance of prevailing in the Wild Card Game. While the two teams are pretty evenly matched, the A’s are at home, they finished one game ahead of the Rays, and they put up a significantly better run differential against a slightly tougher schedule.


Date: Wednesday, Oct. 2 | Time: 8:09 p.m. ET
Location: Oakland Coliseum (Oakland, California)
TV: ESPN | Stream: WatchESPN
Odds: TB: +120 | OAK: -130 | O/U: 7.5
Starting pitchers: Charlie Morton (TB) vs. Sean Manaea (OAK)
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This season, the A’s were an impressive 52-29 at home, but the Rays at 48-33 were one of the best road teams in baseball. In MLB, home teams typically win 54 percent of the time. It’s an edge for Oakland, but not a huge one. 


The veteran righty Morton goes for Tampa Bay. He’s pitched to a 146 ERA+ in 194 2/3 innings pitched this season with 240 strikeouts against 57 walks. He’s likely headed for a top-10 finish in the AL Cy Young balloting. For what it’s worth, Morton has also thrived against the A’s this season, as he’s pitched to a 0.68 ERA in 13 1/3 innings over two starts versus Oakland. Morton tends to be treated like a conventional starter by manager Kevin Cash, but Cash won’t hesitate to go to the bullpen early if circumstances warrant. There’s no tomorrow if you lose, and both managers will act like it. 
Pick: Athletics 3, Rays 2