Predicting Athletics’ wild card roster and approach against Charlie Morton – Chico Enterprise-Record

SEATTLE — The A’s will play a wild card game, but no starter or roster has been publicly etched in stone. He’s hinted that location could play a part in that decision… Sean Manaea? Mike Fiers? Someone else? We’ll know in a few days.

What we do know is that the A’s will face Tampa Bay Rays’ starter Charlie Morton, who stuns with one of the best curveballs in the game. The A’s have faced him twice this season already — in Tampa and Oakland within 10 days of each start. They know there is little room for error, and the postseason hasn’t been kind to this organization lately.

“I would say we hope he doesn’t have his good stuff, is what we hope,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve faced him before, we faced him there, faced him with Houston. He’s a premiere pitcher and that’s why they’re starting him in that game. In any postseason game you’ll see their best pitchers, and he deserves to start that game. So you try to break down what he’s going to try to do to you and have the best plan going into the game, but you know there’s a chance he won’t make many mistakes, so you try to make him work.”

The A’s have fallen into clutch-hit slump in this final road trip — batting 2-for-43 with RISP — and swinging for the fences to tide them over. This may just be late-season fatigue that could be quashed with postseason adrenaline; the A’s will need to go back to their bread and butter against Morton.

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The home run may be hard to come by against Morton — Jurickson Profar has one against him at Oakland this year. That was the only run he allowed, holding Oakland to just six hits with 13 strikeouts over 13.1 innings.

Morton averages an 86 mph exit velocity, 32 percent hard hit average with a middling fastball velocity balanced out by a befuddling breaking ball, so the A’s could turn into doink-hitters — stay inside the ball, go with the pitch and prevent zone expansion (this is a strategy the slap-hit happy Rays operate with, too).

They did something similar against Wade Miley in the 21-run game in September (Miley wasn’t as sharp as his near shutout against the A’s back in July). An example courtesy of Mark Canha:

Marcus Semien took a similar approach on this hit off Morton’s back in June at Tropicana Field, slapping a curveball outside the zone the other way.

Matt Olson took this curveball and punched it into right field. Move-the-line mentality might trump Bash Brother mania at the Coliseum.

Matchups might play a part in how the starting lineup is compiled. Morton has a 4.59 ERA against lefties in 96 innings and a 1.55 ERA against righties in 98.2 innings. Melvin hinted that positional player flexibility might be preferred over pitching flexibility, the A’s may carryHere’s how the A’s roster might look for the wild card game.



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