Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea throws during baseball practice in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. The Athletics are scheduled to face the Tampa Bay Rays in an American League wild-card game Wednesday, Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

LEADING OFF: A's choose Manaea, Rays start Morton in WC game

October 01, 2019 - 8:12 pm

A look at what's happening around the majors Wednesday:

THAT'S WILD

The Athletics have tabbed left-hander Sean Manaea (4-0, 1.21 ERA) to start the AL wild-card game against Tampa Bay. The 27-year-old Manaea missed last postseason, when Oakland lost the wild-card game to the Yankees, and most of this regular season following left shoulder surgery. He returned in September and has been sharp over five starts. He'll start opposite Rays right-hander Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05) — that's right, no openers for either of these forward-thinking clubs — although neither manager will shy away from an early hook.

OCT-HOMER

Hitters smashed a record 6,776 home runs in 2019, and pitchers are preparing for a big fly bonanza this postseason. Justin Verlander told the AP "the game has changed completely" this year, and he's blamed that on adjustments to the baseball. Commissioner Rob Manfred has acknowledged the ball has less drag but says the league isn't sure why. He denied charges from Verlander and other pitchers that the balls have been deliberately altered. Either way, it's been a frustrating year for pitchers, and that's unlikely to change under October's bright lights.

"You know there are going to be a few more runs scored and balls are going to leave the ballpark," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

Might this postseason look something like the 2017 World Series? Pitchers claimed the balls were slicker then, too, and that slugfest between the Astros and Dodgers featured a record 25 home runs and went down as an instant classic. Exciting for fans, certainly. Pitchers remain less enthused.

"Before, it was like the big wreck at a NASCAR race," Braves reliever Shane Greene said. "You might see one, and everybody showed up to see that one homer. Now, you're going to see six."

WORKING IT OUT

The Twins and Yankees may provide updates on a few injured players, two days before they open their AL Division Series on Friday.

Hot-hitting Minnesota rookie Luis Arraez sprained his right ankle Saturday, and as of Sunday, the club wasn't sure what his timeline might be for a return. He hit .334 in 92 games, splitting time between second base, third base, shortstop and left field.

Yankees slugger Edwin Encarnación hasn't played since Sept. 12 due to a left oblique strain but he's been adamant he'll return for the playoffs. Third baseman Gio Urshela sprained his left ankle in the regular-season finale Sunday, but the Yankees said it was mild with no swelling.

STILL SEARCHING

For the second consecutive offseason, the Reds are looking for a new hitting coach. Cincinnati fired Turner Ward on Tuesday after one season. Ward was hired as part of first-year manager David Bell's staff last offseason after three years in the same role with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Cincinnati's offense mostly declined. The Reds dipped in batting average and on-base percentage, struck out more often and narrowly improved their output from 696 runs to 701. A number of key players regressed, notably star Joey Votto, who hit .261 with 15 home runs.

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