During a difficult road trip that ended in Canada, Tampa Bay ace Shane McClanahan gave the Rays the performance they needed.
McClanahan’s club will oppose Texas in the Rangers’ lone visit to St. Petersburg, Fla., during a three-game series that opens Friday night.
Tampa Bay (80-63) had a rough time of it in Toronto in an unusual five-game series against the wild-card-rival Blue Jays.
The Rays dropped the opener on Monday, split a doubleheader on Tuesday, fell on Wednesday and then routed the Blue Jays 11-0 on Thursday behind McClanahan.
Returning from the 15-day injured list after recovering from a shoulder impingement, the left-hander made his first start since Aug. 24 and was dynamic.
McClanahan (12-5) fired five shutout frames in the rout — yielding three hits, fanning five and walking one in his 69-pitch return.
“It was quite refreshing to see the first inning and the (pitches) coming out, and he maintained it,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He walked off in the fourth saying ‘I’m good, I’m good, I’m good.’ … Because of his efficiency, it made sense.”
In the Thursday triumph, Tampa Bay set a major league record by starting nine Latin American players in the lineup, fittingly on Roberto Clemente Day.
The Rangers (62-81) split four games with the Rays in Texas from May 30-June 2.
The pitching matchup for the opening meeting will feature Texas left-hander Martin Perez (11-6, 2.77 ERA) and Rays right-hander Corey Kluber (10-8, 4.36).
In 17 career outings (14 starts) against the Rays, Perez is 3-6 with a 5.49 ERA. He fired seven shutout innings in beating them 3-0 on May 31, allowing three hits and no walks while whiffing five.
Kluber is coming off his worst start this season in which he lasted just two-thirds of an inning against the New York Yankees in a 10-3 shellacking. He surrendered six runs on eight hits against the club he played for a year ago.
Against Texas, whom he pitched for in 2020, he is 6-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 career starts. Last May 19 with New York against Texas, Kluber threw his first no-hitter — the first by a Yankees pitcher in 22 years.
The Rangers split a doubleheader against the host Miami Marlins on Monday before returning home and alternately winning and losing 8-7 games against the Oakland Athletics, leaving them 2-2 for the week.
In the Wednesday night defeat, Texas set a franchise record with its 32nd one-run loss.
“A loss is a loss, whether it’s by one run or 10 runs,” Rangers pitcher Dane Dunning said. “As a whole, I think we know obviously this year hasn’t been great, but there are things that we need to fix and things we will fix.”
On the plus side, the team got long balls from Mark Mathias, Marcus Semien and Jonah Heim in the setback, giving the Rangers three straight three-homer games for the first time since June 13-15, 2016.
In their past 13 meetings with the Rays, Texas holds an 8-5 edge. But dating back through the 2018 campaign, Tampa Bay has won 13 of the 23 games between the clubs.
–Field Level Media