Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea throws during practice in Oakland, Calif.,...

Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea throws during practice in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu

OAKLAND, Calif. — Just more than a year after shoulder surgery, Sean Manaea will make his most important start yet when he takes the mound for the Oakland A's in the AL wild-card game.

Manager Bob Melvin named Manaea his starter for Wednesday’s winner-take-all home game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He says “I think it came down to the fact that since Manaea’s been back, he’s pitched great every single game out.” The lefthander earned the nod over Mike Fiers in a tough decision.

“This is one of those opportunities I think about a lot,” Manaea, 27, said of his first playoff start. “...Crazy how things turn out.”

Manaea returned later than he had hoped but immediately found a groove, going 4-0 with 1.21 ERA in five September starts following the surgery last September.

Fiers (15-4) pitched a no-hitter May 7 against the Reds to begin a 21-start unbeaten stretch in which he went 12-0.

“Mike’s been the ace of the staff this year,” Manaea said.

Having let his hair grow since January, Manaea was headed to get it braided before his outing.

When Melvin called Manaea into his office a couple of days ago and asked the pitcher whether he wanted the ball Wednesday, Manaea’s answer was immediate: “Hell, yeah!”

Righthander Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05) is set to start for Tampa Bay.

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