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American League Wild Card Game

Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics

Over/Under: 7.5

First pitch: 5:08 p.m. PT


Probable pitchers: Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (4-0, 1.21 ERA)

Moments like these just seemed inevitable for Manaea, at least to me as soon as I saw the left-hander when he first arrived to the major leagues three years ago.

If you’ve been a longtime reader of mine, you may remember I even dubbed him my top sleeper going into the following campaign — his first full MLB rodeo. Manaea ended up being solid that year and has been even better since, hence why he drew this assignment despite missing all but the final month of the 2019 season.

Manaea returned from shoulder surgery on the first day of September and proceeded to make five starts, and he, in the words of manager Bob Melvin, “pitched great every single time out.”

That’s evident in the 1.21 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, .160 (!) batting average against and 30 strikeouts he posted across 29.2 total innings. He notably also allowed only four run-scoring hits.

Obviously, it’s no fluke, as Manaea exhibited this potential all along. He was having a breakout showing last year, being 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.08 WHIP (not to mention a no-hitter against the eventual world champion Boston Red Sox) before enduring the injury that sidelined him for a full year.

Enhancing his chances tonight is the fact that he’s a southpaw, which the Rays are more vulnerable against. Their team OPS (.748) is considerably less with a lefty on the hill compared to righties (.761), and as I’ve highlighted before, they strike out often in this department — once every 3.5 at-bats, to be specific. As a matter of fact, no one in the American League struck out more than Tampa Bay opposite left-handers.

Then there’s Morton, who under backers should appreciate for his experience in big games (ex. 2017 ALCS Game 7; 2017 World Series clincher). Just as important, he’s also coming off one of the best seasons of his 12-year career.

While Morton won’t win this year’s AL Cy Young Award, he figures to at least garner some votes for the first time ever. After going 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .215 BAA and 240 K’s in a career-high 194.2 innings, he’s certainly deserving of some. All those numbers ranked him in the top 10 in the AL for each category, too.

Morton is also getting an opponent here that he’s had success with. He faced Oakland twice this season, limiting them to one run in 13.1 innings combined, and lifetime now, he holds a 2.97 ERA against the A’s in seven meetings, including a 1.65 ERA in three career starts at the site of tonight’s affair, the pitching-friendly Oakland Coliseum.

Furthermore, the Athletics seemingly come into the Wild Card Game cold at the plate. They tallied only 15 runs in their final seven regular-season games, and as I pointed out yesterday, it’s tough to just suddenly turn it back on in a postseason environment when dealing with a tough opposing pitcher. Play: UNDER 7.5 (-120)

Yesterday’s Result: Brewers-Nationals Under 7.5 (WIN)

2019 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*:

Regular Season: 89-78-12, +1.05 units

Playoffs: 1-0, +0.5 unit

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit (playoffs 0.5 unit)

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