The postseason in the American League begins with an AL wild-card preview featuring the Tampa Bay Rays and Austin Meadows visiting the Oakland A’s. The winner of the AL wild card gets to take on the 107-win Houston Astros, the 2/1 favorite in Las Vegas to win the 2019 World Series.

Tampa Bay Rays CF Austin Meadows Al Wild Card preview
Tampa Bay Rays CF Austin Meadows rounds third base in a win over the Orioles at Tropicana Stadium in St. Pete. (Image: Allie Goulding/Tampa Times)

The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays are both notorious for their low payrolls, and both teams have an odd relationship with their home stadiums. The A’s are synonymous with Moneyball, with the sixth-lowest payroll in the MLB this season. The A’s also have to share their vast stadium with the Oakland Raiders.

The Rays boast the lowest payroll in baseball at $63.1 million. They’re the only team that plays inside a dome full time, and their fans don’t even bother to show up when they have a good squad. The Rays have an embarrassing, second-worst attendance in MLB.

AL WILD-CARD PREVIEW: Tampa Bay Rays (96-66) at Oakland A’s (97-65)
Start: 5:09pm PT on 10/2/19
Location: Oakland Coliseum, CA
Pitchers: Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (4-0, 1.21 ERA)
Money Line: OAK -130 / TB +120
Run Line: OAK -1.5
Over/Under: 8 runs

The A’s host the AL wild card, and they’re the favorite to win at -130 on the money line. The A’s had one of the best home records in baseball at 52-29.

The Rays send Charlie Morton to the mound, while the A’s start lefty Sean Manaea, who returned from an injury in September. Manaea pitched lights out in his five starts back, with a 0.78 WHIP and 1.21 ERA.

According to William Hill, the Oakland A’s are 16/1 odds to win the World Series. The Tampa Rays are the long shot on the board at 20/1 odds.

According to FanGraphs, the Oakland A’s are only 44 percent chance to advance to the ALDS. The Rays are a 56 percent chance, based on FanGraphs projections.

No Local Love for Austin Meadows and the Rays

Despite a playoff-bound team that won 96 games, the fans in the greater Tampa Bay area didn’t come out to support the Rays this year. Things got so bad in Tampa when the team couldn’t find a spot to put a new stadium, that someone floated the idea to share the Rays with the city of Montreal.

The Tampa Bay Rays don’t have any marquee names aside from CF Austin Meadows, but they win games with old-fashioned, good pitching. The Rays have the top pitching staff in the American League, if ERA is your thing. Tampa led the AL with a 3.65 ERA. Opposing teams hit only .230 against the Rays, which was third-best in the AL.

Meadows emerged as the Tampa Rays best player, and a bona fide All Star. He’s so good that he gets the feature picture treatment in this AL wild-card preview. Meadows led the team in all major categories, with a .291 batting average, 33 home runs, and 89 RBI. He also finished fifth in the AL in slugging at .558.

Yandy Diaz, who played both corner infield positions, is back in action after missing time with a fractured foot.

Melvin, Marcus and the Two Matts in Oakland

The good news is that, after this season, the A’s will be the only show in town. Mark Davis will be taking his bowl cut and the silver and black to Sin City next season to debut the Las Vegas Raiders. The Golden State Warriors played their final game at Oracle Arena in Oakland. The Warriors, without KD, will now play their home games in downtown San Francisco.

The scrappy Oakland A’s and their low payroll made the postseason once again with a wild-card berth. Moneyball, which peaked a decade earlier, is sufficient enough to field a competitive team during a 162-game season. However, the model falls apart in the postseason. The A’s don’t have a stacked lineup like the New York Yankees, or have a sick rotation like the Houston Astros. But don’t discount a hot A’s squad that gutted out 97 wins this year.

Marcus Seimen was an iron man this year, playing in all 162 games. He hit .285 with 33 home runs and 92 RBI. The Two Matts posted identical stats. Olson and Chapman each contributed 36 homers and 91 RBI.

Liam Hendriks will be the man that skipper Bob Melvin relies upon to shut the door. Henricks was seventh in the AL in saves with 25. He finished the season with a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.