The American League Wild Card matchup features a pair of teams that have been successful at developing players, spending wisely and winning on a budget. Awaiting the winner is a brutal matchup with the Astros, who are ready for another deep postseason run with a stacked starting rotation and a deep lineup of power bats. Before worrying about Houston, though, Tampa Bay and Oakland will face off in a must-win matchup in Oakland.
It will be the first playoff game in the Coliseum in five years, and the A’s will be looking to advance in the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons. Tampa Bay hasn’t made the postseason in five years either and comes in with almost no playoff experience. The teams share a similar spending philosophy and have already beaten out teams with far bigger payroll to make it this far. Which one will advance to be the little engine that could going up against the big, bad Astros? Let’s take a look at some betting trends, possible game scripts and ultimately who I think you want on your fantasy baseball roster in DraftKings single-game Shodown.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
BETTING TRENDS— The Rays have won each of their last eight night games vs. American League opponents.
— The “Inning 1 UNDER 0.5 runs” market has hit in each of the Rays’ last nine games at RingCentral Coliseum.
— The Rays have led after three innings in four of their last five Wednesday night games as road underdogs.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
RaysTampa Bay already announced that Charlie Morton ($11,200) will get the start, which isn’t surprising at all since the team gave him the richest free-agent contract in franchise history this past offseason. Morton went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in his first year in Tampa, averaging 21.7 DKFP in his 33 starts. He finished the season with six shutout innings against the Yankees for 33.1 DKFP and allowed just one run in 13 1/3 innings in two starts against the A’s with an average of 25.7 DKFP per outing. He’s familiar with pitching in Oakland and with postseason success from his time with the Astros and will be a key factor if the Rays are able to pull this off.
At the plate, the Rays will be facing lefty Sean Manaea ($10,400), which opens up decent value with Travis d’Arnaud ($6,800), who hit 10 of his 16 home runs this season against southpaws with a .276 average and .886 OPS compared to just .235 average and .658 OPS against righties. d’Arnaud is 2-for-2 with a walk in his very limited career sample size against Manaea.
Yandy Díaz ($8,000) could also be a nice play against the lefty if his foot is recovered enough to be active and in the lineup. Díaz hit .311 with a .976 OPS against lefties this season, and hit the ball well on Sunday in his return despite going 0-for-3 against Toronto. The left-handed matchup hurts left-handed batters Austin Meadows ($9,800), Brandon Lowe ($7,600) and Kevin Kiermaier ($5,400).
In the middle of the salary tier, Avisaíl García ($7,200) is a nice option and comes in swinging a hot bat. He went 21-for-63 (.333) in September with six doubles, two homers, 12 RBI and a .904 OPS. Matt Duffy ($4,000) and Guillermo Heredia ($4,200) could also be salary-saving options if they’re in the lineup against Manaea.
AthleticsManaea missed most of the season with a shoulder issue, but was excellent in his five starts since returning. He went 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. He hasn’t thrown 100 pitches in any outing, but has been able to work at least 5 2/3 innings in each of his past four starts. Manaea will be a solid play with the Rays’ typically lefty-heavy lineup, although he doesn’t have the playoff experience or extended track record that Morton offers.
Marcus Semien ($9,600) has been the A’s most consistent hitter lately and achieved the rare fete of playing all 162 games this season. He hit .285 overall with 33 homers, 92 RBI and an .892 OPS. He hit an impressive .347 in September with nine doubles, eight home runs and a 1.134 OPS. He also has a good history against Morton, going 5-for-14 (.357) with two doubles and two walks.
Both Matt Chapman ($7,400) and Khris Davis ($5,000) bring excellent power potential, but have struggled a bit down the stretch. Both have battled injuries at times during their struggles and may be playing at less than 100%.
My favorite value play from the Oaklnd lineup is Jurickson Profar ($6,000). Profar only hit .218 on the season, but finished strong after getting some extra time off with September call-ups. He went 26-for-96 (.271) over his past 32 games, hitting five of his 20 home runs this season during that span while averaging 8.1 DKFP per contest.
THE OUTCOMEThe two obvious captain’s picks are the two starting pitchers since Morton ($16,800 CP) and Manaea ($15,600 CP) are the highest options. Given the setting and his ability to go deeper into the game, I’d lean toward Morton, but then you’ll need to go very cheap at some other spots. I think a better option is to slot in the starters in flex roles and go with Semien ($14,400 CP) or even García ($10,800 CP) to give yourself more balance across the board.
The most likely scenario for this game is that it’s low-scoring and dramatic. Both these teams have found a way to win all season and have often won with late-inning drama. I could see this game going extras with an unlikely hero pushing his team to the next round. Ultimately, I’ll take the A’s in a walkoff win in extra innings.
Final Score: Oakland 3, Tampa Bay 2
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is timfinn521) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.