The Rays have had so many games like today’s — decent pitching, mostly good fielding, but just not enough hitting – that I thought for a quick minute about just reposting a recap from a previous game. Would anyone notice? Sometimes they have a number of scoring opportunities but leave men on base. Other times, like today, opportunities are limited (although leaving bases loaded does sting). Sometimes they win them, sometimes they lose them, but the “getting by with two runs” thread runs through many of them.
So let’s just hit on the highlights. And one of the highlights was the first major league start for Shane McClanahan, who did have some relief appearances in the postseason.
His first two innings were incredible. Here are some of the reactions from around baseball:
One inning into his first start and Shane McClanahan already broke Statcast. Those 92s and 93s are sliders. The Rays rookie is primed to be the hardest-throwing left-handed starter in big league history. pic.twitter.com/C9mizrS8gT
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 29, 2021
Shane McClanahan got a K on a 100.5 mph pitch.
That ties for the fastest strikeout pitch of the pitch-tracking era (2008-) by a left-handed starter.
He equals Chris Sale and James Paxton.
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 29, 2021
So, pretty impressive two innings! Of course, McClanahan actually pitched four innings, and second time through the order even a 100mph fastball gets hittable.
He was staked to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Austin Meadows’ broken bat bloop fell for an RBI double.
In the third inning he gave up a one-out single to Kemp, who moved to second on a wild pitch. The next batter hit a solid line drive which was fielded on a bounce by Brett Phillips in right field. His perfect throw beat Kemp to the plate by several beats. But the run came home anyway when Laureano drilled an RBI double to the left field corner for a 1-1 tie. The Rays ended the inning by catching Laureano trying to steal third base. Apparently the Rays are not the only team capable of running themselves out of an inning
The Athletics took the lead in the fourth when Matt Chapman, a great hitter who has started slow, hit a solo home run.
McClanahan was gone after that inning with a final line of 2 runs, 5 hits and 5 strikeouts in 4 innings. I’d say a good outing for his first major league start: he can take heart from the dominant innings, and learn from the getting hit hard innings.
While the Rays did tie the game at 2-2 with a Brandon Lowe home run, that was all the scoring they could muster.
The tied score held until the top of the 9th. Diego Castillo came in for the third day in a row which I always feel may be pushing things. He walked Jed Lowrie with one out, managed to get the second out, and then faced Matt Chapman, who doubled on what looked to me like a pretty hard pitch to hit. But hit it he did, and Brett Phillips’ throw home this time was way off line — indeed he got an error on the play (although the run was earned).
The Rays had a shot to tie it in the bottom of the inning. Phillips singled and worked his way to third on a wild pitch and a steal. But Kevin Kiermaier struck out to end the game.
Looking here for some silver linings: I was glad to see the Brandon Lowe home run because he is such a streaky hitter and getting him in gear would do wonders to cure the “two runs a game blues”. Also, Brett Phillips is definitely my star of the week. He’s made some great plays (the error in the ninth inning notwithstanding). And in his last few games he’s had some, as we like to say, “professional at bats”. Today he worked out two walks and managed that ninth inning single — the Rays had ten baserunners, and he was three of them. He’s had extra base hits in two other games this week.
Also, Rays pitching on the whole remains pretty darned good considering that they have 14 pitchers on the IL.