Despite short McClanahan outing, Rays' bats deliver in rout

July 1st, 2023

SEATTLE -- It was anything but a normal outing for Shane McClanahan, but Tampa Bay didn’t need the dominance its grown accustomed to from the star left-hander as the Rays scored eight runs in the eighth inning en route to a 15-4 win over the Mariners on Friday night at T-Mobile Park.

In his previous start against Kansas City on June 22, McClanahan left the game after just 3 2/3 innings with mid-back tightness. The MLB leader in wins (11) struggled his way through three innings, managing just one strikeout while allowing four runs on five hits and three walks. 

“I’m frustrated,” McClanahan said. “I want to go out there and help this team win. I didn’t do that this start or last start, and I’m ready to get the ball moving in the right direction.”

With the All-Star break looming, the Major League-leading Rays (57-28) will proceed with caution in regard to McClanahan.

“There’s a little bit of an issue with his back,” said Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash on his prized hurler. “I’m glad we took him out and we’ll see which way we’ll go. I just hope he’s fine.

“At the halfway point with a break coming up, I think [the injured list] is very much on the table.”

Despite their starter’s rough outing, the Rays picked up their third straight win by chipping away at the deficit before piling on an avalanche of runs in the eighth frame to put things out of reach. A two-run home run by Randy Arozarena put Tampa on the board in the fourth inning, and the Rays added runs in the fifth and sixth to knot things at 4-4.

The eighth-inning barrage saw 13 Tampa Bay batters rack up eight hits on their way to a 12-4 lead. Third baseman Isaac Paredes started the scoring onslaught by reaching on a fielder’s choice that sent right fielder Luke Raley home from third.

“There were a lot of big at-bats,” Cash said. “That one inning -- Isaac putting the ball in play right there -- it just seemed like they kind of fed off that. Guys kept getting on base, coming up with big hits and finding holes, infield ins, sac flies -- we scored in every way possible."

Tampa Bay went on to add three more runs in the ninth inning, tallying 15 unanswered in all after trailing 4-0 in the second. 

Each of the Rays’ nine starting batters recorded an RBI on Friday. Pinch hitter Pinch-hitter Vidal Bruján made it a perfect 10-for-10 for Tampa Bay batters with his RBI groundout in the final frame. 

“That’s pretty cool,” said Rays designated hitter Josh Lowe, “I didn’t know that. That’s a cool day at the office for everybody. 

“That’s kind of what we saw the first two months of the season. It’s pretty cool to see that come back. Hopefully we can have a few more of those innings the rest of the year and just keep it going.”

Arozarena and Rays catcher Christian Bethancourt led all batters with three RBIs apiece.

Lowe, who matched Bethancourt with a game-best 3-for-5 performance at the plate, noted a key turning point was when Seattle starting pitcher Bryce Miller left the game in the top of the fourth inning, just after Arozarena’s line-drive home run cut Tampa’s deficit in half. Miller exited due to a blister on the middle finger of his right hand -- his throwing hand.

“I don’t ever wish injury on anybody,” Lowe said, “but thankfully their pitcher had to come out of the game. The first time through, he dominated us. He’s a good pitcher.”

While the Mariners’ bullpen imploded over the final five innings, the Rays’ stepped up and held Seattle scoreless over the last seven frames.

“They all really did a nice job,” Cash said of his relief pitchers. “I was so impressed with Shawn Armstrong. He had two days down and we needed him. It was a short outing for ‘Mac’ [McClanahan], and we needed him to get us two innings. 

“We contemplated him going out there for a third, but felt like we should take him out and then maybe he’s available later in the series.”

After hitting three home runs on Friday, the Rays held onto their AL lead with 128 ahead of the Angels’ 125. Tampa Bay also leads the Majors in stolen bases with 102 -- Oakland is the closest AL team with 84. It’s only the 10th time in MLB history a team has closed out June leading the AL in both categories, and the first time since 2015, when the Houston Astros achieved the feat. 

“It means a lot,” Cash said. “I mean, you’re talking about the 10th team of all time -- one of 10, that’s pretty impressive. Hopefully we’re still doing that at the end of the season.”