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What's ahead? Rays postseason FAQ

@juanctoribio
September 29, 2019

TORONTO -- Over the last couple of days, Rays players remained consistent, talking about how their focus has been solely on taking it game by game and not thinking ahead to the postseason. That could all end now. With a 6-2 win against the Blue Jays on Friday at Rogers

TORONTO -- Over the last couple of days, Rays players remained consistent, talking about how their focus has been solely on taking it game by game and not thinking ahead to the postseason.

That could all end now.

With a 6-2 win against the Blue Jays on Friday at Rogers Centre, the Rays officially clinched their first postseason berth since 2013. Despite injuries, the Rays were confident that they would make it back to the playoffs this season, and their journey will continue with the American League Wild Card Game on Wednesday.

Get your Rays postseason gear here

Who will the Rays play in the AL Wild Card Game and where?

The Rays will face off Wednesday against the A’s at the Coliseum in Oakland, with first pitch set for 8:09 p.m. ET on ESPN. The A's secured home-field advantage on Saturday with a 1-0 win over the Mariners.

How did the Rays fare against the A’s in 2019?

This is as even a matchup as you’ll get in a postseason game. During the regular season, the Rays went 3-4 against the A’s, winning just one of three at Tropicana Field, but splitting a four-game set at Oakland Coliseum.

Despite losing the season series, the Rays outscored the A’s, 30-26, in the seven games. The June 20 game stands out, as a four-run ninth inning against Diego Castillo propelled the A’s to a 5-4 walk-off win.

The A's could have the edge in experience, as they played the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game last year. But inexperience hasn’t seemed to faze a young Rays team that only has nine players with postseason experience on the 40-man roster.

Which pitcher gets the starting nod?

The Rays on Sunday named Charlie Morton as their starter for the Wild Card Game, which all along appeared to be the most logical option.

Morton made a career-high 33 starts for the Rays this season and was the most consistent pitcher on a staff that was decimated by injuries. The 35-year-old has the most playoff experience on the team, including recording the final out in the 2017 World Series for the Astros.

In two starts against the A’s this season, Morton was excellent. The right-hander went seven scoreless innings at Tropicana Field on June 10. He followed that by allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings on June 20 at the Coliseum. He struck out 13 over those two starts.

The other option would have been Tyler Glasnow, who has been stellar since returning from injury, but is still not fully stretched out.

Tough roster decisions

The pitching decision will be a tough one for Rays manager Kevin Cash, but crunching down the roster to 25 players will be even tougher. The Rays have been built on depth and have fully utilized the 40-man roster in September.

The Rays will have to make some interesting decisions in the bullpen and with some position players. Does Ji-Man Choi, who was out of the lineup Friday with a left foot injury, return healthy? Does Yandy Díaz make the playoff roster if his return to MLB action on Sunday goes well? Those are just two of the questions that the Rays must answer.

If Choi doesn’t return in time, Jesús Aguilar and Nate Lowe become options at the position. And if Diaz's return goes well, it’ll be interesting to see if the Rays add him to the roster, considering that he’ll be limited defensively.

What happens after the Wild Card Game?

The winner of Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game moves on to the AL Division Series against the Astros. That series will start on Friday in Houston.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.