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Rays get rare Friday off before interleague series this weekend

The league is trying to increase attendance for weekend interleague games by not playing Friday.
A fan catches a fly ball during the sixth inning Thursday. Tropicana Field will be quiet Friday, before a weekend series against the Phillies. Capacity at the Trop also will increase soon.
A fan catches a fly ball during the sixth inning Thursday. Tropicana Field will be quiet Friday, before a weekend series against the Phillies. Capacity at the Trop also will increase soon. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published May 28, 2021|Updated May 28, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — For only the fourth time in franchise history, the Rays have a scheduled off day on a Friday.

Following Thursday’s 7-2 victory against the Royals, the Rays can catch their breath before beginning a two-game series Saturday against the Phillies at Tropicana Field, then starting a seven-game road trip on Memorial Day against the Yankees.

“It is strange (to be off Friday), but we’ll take it,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “No big plans.”

The previous Friday off days occurred in 2019 (before a two-game series against the Marlins), 2018 (following the Red Sox’s home opener) and 2004 (after returning from a season-opening trip to Tokyo against the Yankees).

The Friday off days are part of Major League Baseball’s scheduling plan to increase attendance for interleague series.

With most seating areas returning to standard configuration and the Trop capacity increased to around 20,000, tickets for June home games go on sale Friday at 10 a.m., via www.RaysBaseball.com and the MLB Ballpark app.

Work for Wacha

Right-hander Michael Wacha pitched three relief innings Thursday in his second appearance since returning from the 10-day injured list (right hamstring tightness). He gave up a sixth-inning, two-run homer to Kansas City’s Ryan O’Hearn, but settled down for two shutout innings, benefitting from an eight-inning double-play ball after allowing a pair of singles.

“I feel good getting back on the mound,” Wacha said. “It’s nice to face another team and get back into competition. I just hate missing time, especially when it’s something not arm-related. I’m back to normal, how I originally felt. That’s always nice.”

McClanahan’s pitch selection

Cash said he was impressed with the diversity of pitches thrown by left-hander Shane McClanahan, who tossed five shutout innings.

“Just the efficiency he continues to show, it’s setting the bar really high,” Cash said. “His willingness to throw the fastballs for strikeouts, the slider underneath to righties and he even mixed in more changeups today, which was good.”

In the third inning, McClanahan had Royals designated hitter Salvador Perez swinging and missing at two changeups, clocked at 90 and 91 mph. McClanahan credited his confidence to his teammates.

“Everybody knows it’s very difficult to win in the major leagues,” McClanahan said. “It might look that way (easy) because I have a lot of trust in the guys behind me. I have a lot of trust in Z (catcher Mike Zunino). That gives you the ability to relax a little bit and not put too much pressure on yourself. Nobody will tell you that it’s easy. Maybe it looks that way because of who you’ve got around you.”

Miscellany

Cash said right-hander Luis Patino, out since cutting his middle finger in a May 18 start, remains on track to be activated this weekend against the Phillies. … Cash said great work by starting pitchers Rich Hill, Tyler Glasnow and McClanahan has allowed the bullpen to get rest and have a reset after being severely taxed in last weekend’s series against the Blue Jays. … Right-hander Diego Castillo hasn’t pitched since a scoreless ninth inning Saturday. … The Rays are 13-13 at the Trop, but have won six of their last seven games there. … Meadows is batting .500 (7-for-14) with 13 RBIs in his last 11 games.

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