As the A's try to determine their starting pitcher for a potential wild-card game, their likely opponent has already made that decision.
Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash told MLB Network Radio that he would start right-hander Charlie Morton.
"That's kind of how we planned it," Cash said. "(He's) so deserving of it. It doesn't matter who we're playing or how it shakes out -- game 163, Wild Card Game, whatever it is -- I think when it's time to win a game, you're going to want Charlie on the mound for you."
Kevin Cash: If we make it to the AL Wild Card Game, Charlie Morton will be our starter.@RaysBaseball | #Rays | #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/eSDz3DM4TL— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) September 27, 2019
It's certainly not a surprising decision. Morton, 35, has been phenomenal this season, going 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 33 starts. Most recently, he tossed six shutout innings of one-hit ball against the New York Yankees on Wednesday night, putting him on six days of rest for the Wild Card Game.
Morton ranks in the top five among AL starters in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. He has also been extremely effective in his two starts against the A's, allowing just one run on six hits in 13 1/3 innings.
The home-field advantage could play a factor, as Morton has been a bit better at home than away this season, despite matching 8-3 records in each situation. In 17 home starts, he has a 2.59 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. On the road, his ERA is a run higher at 3.59 and his WHIP is 1.23.
Entering Friday, the A's led the Rays by one game for the top wild-card spot, with the Indians two games behind Tampa Bay. Oakland won four of seven regular-season games against the Rays, giving the Green and Gold the tiebreaker.
The A's could, therefore, lock up home-field advantage in the wild-card game on Friday night with a win over Seattle and a Rays loss to Toronto.