ST. PETERSBURG — If American League/Astros manager Dusty Baker or Major League Baseball officials somehow need any more convincing that Shane McClanahan deserves to start next week’s All-Star Game, he gave it to them Wednesday.
McClanahan was dominant yet again, holding the Red Sox to one run and three hits over 6 1/3 innings in the Rays’ 4-1 win, their third straight over their division rival, which improved their AL wild card-leading record to 48-40.
He did what he has done pretty much all season: mix his four above-average pitches, throw strikes, limit damage and put the Rays in position to win.
And his remarkable numbers show that: 10-3 with an AL-best 1.71 ERA and a majors-most 147 strikeouts (in 110 2/3 innings). Plus, McClanahan was the top vote-getter among AL starters on the players’ ballot and will be available to pitch Tuesday at Dodger Stadium on full rest.
While the votes from the Tampa Bay precinct won’t factor in the decision. they are unanimous.
Reliever Jason Adam: “I don’t see a logical argument for anyone but Shane. It’s unreal. Look at the numbers. He’s a beast.”
Shortstop Taylor Walls: “There’s no guy out there in the American League that should start over him.”
Outfielder Josh Lowe: “That is the All-Star starter, in my opinion. No reason he doesn’t deserve to get that nod there. He’s been incredible for us all year long.”
Manager Kevin Cash, who knows from experience the decisions can be complicated by other factors besides performance: “I hope he starts the All-Star Game. ... I don’t know what else to say.”
As for McClanahan’s thoughts?
“I’m just honored to go,” he said. “It’s an honor for me to be even included in that conversation. So whether I get the ball or not, I feel really lucky to be there. This is kind of what you dream about as a kid growing up. And it’s out of my control.”
The Rays gave McClanahan an early lead on third-inning RBI singles by Ji-Man Choi and Harold Ramirez, then added to it in the fourth as Walls homered for the first time since June 7. Josh Lowe ran them into a run in the seventh, running from first on the pitch as Yandy Diaz singled to rightfield and making a bold dash — at the direction of third-base coach Rodney Linares — all the way home as the Sox were casual in getting the ball in.
McClanahan retired the first 10 Red Sox and got out of the only mess he had, runners on first and third with no outs in the fifth inning and a 3-0 lead.
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“It seems like he gets better when guys get on base,” Cash said. “You’re going to pitch with guys on base, certainly in the American League East, whether it’s the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays. He’s shown the ability to kind of take a deep breath and make big pitches.
“He forgot about the guy at third and just tried to execute pitches, got the double-play ball and then out of the inning with us still feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
Cash let McClanahan start the seventh to get out tough lefty Rafael Devers, but felt 85 pitches were enough. Fans on the Rays side cheered McClanahan, and he acknowledged them and tipped his cap.
Cash the said decision was part of what will be an ongoing effort to limit the 25-year-old’s innings as he is already nearing his 2021 career-high total of 123 1/3. “I think we’re at the point with his workload, we might need to find some spots to manage it a little bit,” Cash said.
In striking out six, McClanahan ended his AL-record streak of 11 straight starts of working six or more innings, striking out seven or more and allowing two or fewer runs. But he extended several others, including matching Johan Santana’s AL mark of seven straight with six or more innings, six or more strikeouts and one or no earned runs, with only Sandy Koufax having more (eight in 1962).
“Safe to say,” said Rays baseball operations president Erik Neander, “he just put up the best first half in the American League.”
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