For the second year in a row, the A's are going home after just one playoff game. For the second year in a row, manager Bob Melvin elected not to give the ball to Mike Fiers to get his team through the AL Wild Card Game.
Last season, Melvin opted for the opened strategy, giving the ball to Liam Hendriks at Yankee Stadium. On Wednesday, Melvin chose to give left-hander Sean Manaea the start against the Tampa Bay Rays. Manaea pitched well in September, but was hit hard with everything on the line, giving up four runs on four hits across two-plus innings of work as the Rays claimed a 5-1 victory at the Coliseum to advance to the American League Division Series.
As is custom when decisions backfire, the Twitter managers immediately questioned Melvin's decision not to start Fiers as soon as Yandy Diaz led off the game with a solo home run off Manaea.
Fiers, however, didn't second guess Melvin's choice to not give him the ball with the season at stake.
“You could always look back and say, ‘You should have done this or you should have done that,’ but Manaea has pitched very well for us, and everyone was behind him and excited he was pitching," Fiers said after the game, via Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle.
Results aside, Melvin made the right call in starting Manaea.
Manaea posted a 1.21 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in September. He was the clear choice and few questioned the move before Diaz hammered the fifth pitch of the night into the Coliseum stands.
To think Fiers, a fly-ball pitcher in his own right, would have been immune to giving up the three round-trippers as Manaea did Wednesday is a fool's errand, something only taken up by those looking for a reason for another early October exit from the Green and Gold.
Manaea fell flat in the big moment, but the A's offense mustered just one run on eight hits. Oakland's failure in another elimination game falls just as much on Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Co. as it does Manaea and Melvin's decision to give him the start.
The right call was made. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way.