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Rays, Athletics lineups for AL Wild Card game

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The American League side of the playoff bracket will begin with the AL Wild Card game tonight at 8 PM ET on ESPN, featuring the Rays and Athletics in Oakland. The Rays went 96-66 during the regular season, finishing a distant seven games behind the Yankees. The A’s went 97-65, finishing an even more distant 10 games behind the Astros.

Here are your starting lineups.

Rays

1B Yandy Díaz – .267/.340/.476, 14 HR, 38 RBI (347 PA)
DH Tommy Pham – .273/.369/.450, 21 HR, 68 RBI (654 PA)
LF Austin Meadows – .291/.364/.558, 33 HR, 89 RBI (591 PA)
C Travis d'Arnaud – .263/.323/.459, 16 HR, 67 RBI (365 PA)
3B Matt Duffy – .252/.343/.327, 1 HR, 12 RBI (169 PA)
RF Avisaíl García – .282/.332/.464, 20 HR, 72 RBI (530 PA)
SS Willy Adames – .254/.317/.418, 20 HR, 52 RBI (584 PA)
CF Kevin Kiermaier – .228/.278/.398, 14 HR, 55 RBI (480 PA)
2B Michael Brosseau – .273/.319/.462, 6 HR, 16 RBI (142 PA)

SP Charlie Morton – 16-6, 3.05 ERA< 240 K, 57 BB (194 2/3 IP)

The Rays are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Hard to believe it’s been that long, but the club had strung together five consecutive seasons of finishing in third place or worse.

Morton had a career year and is a solid No. 3 in the AL Cy Young Award race behind the Astros’ Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. The Rays received a lot of press for popularizing “the opener” plus reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell had a down year, so Morton stepped up as the de facto ace of the staff.

Athletics

SS Marcus Semien – .285/.369/.522, 33 HR, 92 RBI (747 PA)
RF Ramón Laureano – .288/.340/.521, 24 HR, 67 RBI (481 PA)
3B Matt Chapman – .249/.342/.506, 36 HR, 91 RBI (670 PA)
1B Matt Olson – .267/.351/.545, 36 HR, 91 RBI (547 PA)
CF Mark Canha – .273/.396/.517, 26 HR, 58 RBI (497 PA)
2B Jurickson Profar – .218/.301/.410, 20 HR, 67 RBI (518 PA)
DH Khris Davis – .220/.293/.387, 23 HR, 73 RBI (533 PA)
LF Robbie Grossman – .240/.334/.348, 6 HR, 38 RBI (482 PA)
C Sean Murphy – .245/.333/.566, 4 HR, 8 RBI (60 PA)

SP Sean Manaea – 4-0, 1.21 ERA, 30 K, 7 BB (29 2/3 IP)

The A’s are appearing in the AL Wild Card game for a second consecutive year. They lost last year to the Yankees, 7-2. Should they win tonight, the A’s will advance into the ALDS for the first time since 2013.

Manaea underwent shoulder surgery in September 2018 and didn’t return until rosters expanded last month. In five September starts, Manaea dazzled with a 1.21 ERA and a 30/7 K/BB ratio across 29 2/3 innings. Although it is a small sample size, the performance isn’t hard to buy into as Manaea has shown that kind of potential before, particularly when he no-hit the eventual world champion Red Sox on April 21, 2018.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.