ST. PETERSBURG — If he keeps this up, maybe he'll get a few Cy Young votes. Maybe one day he'll get a call from Cooperstown. Maybe they'll hold a number retirement ceremony at the ballpark in Ybor.
Ryne Stanek, the reliever-turned-starter whom the Rays still sometimes use as a reliever when he's not a starter, added another scoreless start to his resume — his ninth straight — in a 5-2 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. In two innings, he threw 23 pitches, 16 for strikes — a catch-em-if-you-can mix of 98 mph fastballs and 88 mph sliders. He allowed one hit and struck out two.
Over Stanek's streak, which began June 7, he has struck out 18 and allowed 12 baserunners in 13.2 innings pitched.
So it's not Orel Hershiser's 59-inning streak in 1988 or Don Drysdale's 58-inning streak in 1968 or Zack Greinke's 45.2-inning streak in 2015. But maybe Stanek can claim a title no other pitcher has. How does "best opener in baseball" sound?
"I continue to say and I like saying it, he's taken to that role," manager Kevin Cash said. "I think he enjoys going up there knowing he has that ball for an inning or two and he's making the most of it when he attacks and pounds the strike zone and then opens up."
At this point, Stanek said he expects to be the one who opens. Whether it's the first, second or the eighth inning, though, his goal remains the same.
"I just try to go out there and throw up a zero no matter when it is," he said.
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd matched Stanek for the first two innings, but in the bottom of the third, Carlos Gomez drew a walk, stole second and scored on a Willy Adames single. Shortstop Jose Iglesias tried to backhand the ball, but it dribbled away and Gomez didn't break stride going around third. Chalk that run up to pure hustle.
Kevin Kiermaier knocked in Adames, and Wilson Ramos added an opposite field three-run home run later in the inning to give the Rays a 5-0 lead for the second straight night. Unlike Thursday night, though, the Rays bullpen didn't let the Tigers back in the game.
HEATING UP?: Before a triple in the 10th inning Monday night, Kiermaier had been scuffling through a 3-for-30 July slump. The center fielder said before Friday's game that he felt like it was only a matter of time before he took off. He backed up that claim in the top of the third inning, when his single drove in Adames. He also scored a run and drew a walk.
"Ever since I came back from the DL, there were a couple of times there where I really needed to figure some things out in the box, but the past week or so, I've felt so good up there," Kiermaier said. "I feel confident every time I walk to the plate. I don't care what my batting average is or any other number is. I know I can do damage up there."
WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Left-handed pitcher Shane McClanahan, one of the Rays' first-round draft picks, was in attendance Tuesday night, getting a tour of the team facilities and meeting potential future coaches and teammates.
Drafted 31st overall, McClanahan, 21, went 5-6 with 3.42 ERA in 14 starts for USF last season. He struck out 120 batters in 76.1 innings.
As players warmed up before the game, McClanahan chatted with pitcher and, if circumstances align favorably, All-Star Blake Snell.
"Blake's a great guy," he said. "He's having a helluva year, so I'm just really grateful I got to pick his mind a little bit and see what's working for him. Hopefully, one day I'll be teammates with him."
Contract negotiations between the Rays and McClanahan went right up to deadline day, with McClanahan signing Friday for $2,230,100. He had told teams he wanted $3 million.
"I dreamed about this since I was six years old," he said. "I feel like any kid at six years old wants to be a Major League Baseball player. At the end of the day, I made the right decision for me and my family, and I'm just very thankful to be here."
McClanahan describes himself as an aggressive pitcher who likes to challenge hitters.
"I'm not gonna be afraid of anyone stepping in the box," he said. "My goal is to get you out 10 out of 10 times. I'm not gonna back off. I don't care who you are. I'm going to come right at you."
ROSTER MOVE: Before Tuesday's game, the Rays called up first baseman and outfielder Ji-Man Choi from Triple-A Durham and sent down outfielder Johnny Field.
"(Choi)'s going to hit for us," Cash said. "And he's going to DH a lot. He might play some first base, might kick Jake Bauers out to the outfield here and there. It's just going to be another one of those try to be really healthy positioning where we're getting everybody active, getting everybody on their feet, getting everybody playing."
Choi, whom the Rays acquired from the Brewers last month in the Brad Miller trade, was hitting .270/.360/.405 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 86 plate appearances for Durham.
Field, a Rays fifth-round pick in 2013, was hitting .213/.253/.373 with six home runs and 14 RBIs in 179 plate appearance.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.