'Mac's the man': McClanahan twirls gem to reach 8-0 record
ST. PETERSBURG -- Not long after suffering the most lopsided loss in franchise history, the Rays made it clear they were ready to forget about it and move on.
“Last night didn't go our way, but nobody cared. Nobody remembered that when they came into the clubhouse today,” left-hander Shane McClanahan said. “It's all about putting the next foot forward and moving on from it.”
And what better way to do so than with their ace to the mound?
McClanahan put together another gem on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, sailing through seven innings and receiving plenty of run support in the Rays’ 7-3 win over the Blue Jays. McClanahan became the first eight-game winner in the Majors this season, as his latest performance improved him to 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA.
“If you don't know that Mac's the man by now,” Rays first baseman Luke Raley said, “you should.”
McClanahan allowed just one run on four hits, striking out seven without a walk as Tampa Bay (36-15) won for the 10th time in his first 11 starts of the year. The lefty also became the third pitcher in club history to begin a season with an 8-0 record, joining Matt Moore (2013) and Charlie Morton ('19). Among qualified Major League pitchers, only Sonny Gray (1.82) can currently claim a lower ERA than McClanahan.
That was the guy the Rays wanted on the mound to rebound from Tuesday’s 20-1 defeat, and there was nowhere else McClanahan would have rather been.
“My only motive -- I think anybody in here can attest to that -- is, ‘Did we win?’” McClanahan said. “As long as I help this team and put them in a good situation to win, that's really, truly, all I care about. Everything else will take care of itself.”
McClanahan was in control from the start. He retired Toronto’s first 10 hitters in order, and he struck out four before giving up a run on back-to-back hits by Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the fourth inning.
He needed exactly 11 pitches to complete each of his first four innings, never throwing more than 15 pitches in a frame as he finished his seven-inning outing -- tied for his longest start of the season -- with only 82 pitches to his name. McClanahan faced 25 batters, and he only ran up a three-ball count on two of them.
“Every time he's out there, we know we have a great chance of winning a baseball game,” Raley said. “He's incredible. He's got to be one of the best pitchers in the game, and I'm really glad he's my teammate.”
For all the success he’s had, McClanahan had issued 24 free passes in 50 innings heading into his last start. He ironed out a few mechanical issues with pitching coach Kyle Snyder at the end of Tampa Bay’s last road trip, and he’s only walked one batter in 14 innings since then. Wednesday was his first walk-free start since Aug. 6.
“That lineup knows him very well, and they're a bunch of really good hitters, and he kept them pretty quiet,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Speaks to the stuff that he had, the execution that he had and just committed himself to the strike zone. When he does that, we've seen some special outings.”
The Rays continued to back their ace, too. Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes singled to create a run in the first inning. Raley and Jose Siri each hit a solo homer in the second. It was a welcome return to normalcy for Raley, as he hit his 10th home run a night after memorably striking out Guerrero -- and giving up a grand slam to him.
“I would rather be at the plate than on the mound, that’s for sure,” Raley said, smiling.
Manuel Margot hit an RBI triple in the fourth, then he scored on Franco’s hard single up the middle to make it a 5-1 game. Still, it wound up getting a little too close for comfort after McClanahan’s exit.
Jason Adam allowed two earned runs on three hits and a walk in the eighth before Kevin Kelly came in with the tying run on base and induced an inning-ending double play, turned by second baseman Taylor Walls, against Matt Chapman. But Siri and Franco, who finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, put the game away with a pair of RBI singles in the eighth.
“I felt like anybody in the world would know that this offense was going to bounce back after last night,” McClanahan said. “They jumped on them and never looked back.”