BOSTON — Shane McClanahan was the last player to leave the Rays dugout after Monday’s season-ending 6-5 walkoff loss in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, watching the wild-card Red Sox celebrate their upset win.
McClanahan, the rookie lefty who emerged as a starter in an impressive first full season in the majors, had a big hand in the loss, coming in from the bullpen for the third inning and allowing five runs in an eight-batter span. Though the Rays eventually battled back from the 5-0 deficit to tie the score in the eighth, McClanahan’s outing left them playing from behind and made their task tougher.
With the Rays short on pitching after using nine pitchers in Sunday’s 13-inning loss, manager Kevin Cash decided McClanahan would be a good option, though he had only three days’ rest since his Game 1 outing, and went to him after a solid two innings from opener Collin McHugh.
It did seem like somewhat of a gamble. The 24-year-old rookie from USF was used exclusively as a starter this season and didn’t pitch on fewer than four days’ rest all year, and only five times at that, usually getting more.
“Look, ‘Mac’ has been such a horse for us all year long. He’s a day short of regular rest, and (I) just felt like given that stretch of the lineup, I wanted to see him try to get through the top of the lineup twice,” Cash said. “Obviously, it kind of went sideways pretty quick, and he got up to 28, 29 pitches, whatever it was, in one inning, and damage had been done. It just felt like that was enough.
“Pretty comfortable with asking him to carry the load. I’m so appreciative that he was amped up to do it. But it just didn’t go our way.”
McClanahan was not made available to talk to reporters after the game.
Teammates said he should not bear the blame.
“He’s got as good as stuff as anybody,” reliever Andrew Kittredge said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him, and I wouldn’t look at this as something to get too caught up in. He’s going to be really good.
“He’s a starter by trade. I think that’s what he’s most comfortable at. But he looked comfortable (Monday night), too. Watching him warm up, his stuff looked great. It just didn’t go his way. I don’t blame ‘Cashy’ for putting him in that situation, because everything that he’s shown thus far points to him having success. It’s just one of those things that didn’t go our way. But Shane’s going to be really good for us for a long time.”
Catcher Mike Zunino said McClanahan was making quality pitches but the Sox, having just seen him Thursday, were being ultra aggressive with their swings.
As for McClanahan taking the loss hard?
“It’s not an easy spot to be in,” Zunino said. “For a guy that is so young and still does not have the experience of a lot of guys, there’s emotion to it. There’s emotion for guys that have played thousands of games. I’m emotional. … When you realize that your season’s done — everything you’ve trained for, everything that you’ve put on the line — and it’s not the outcome you wanted …
“But he’s going to be here for a very long time. He’s going to help this organization a lot. He’s got to continue to put his head down and keep working. And he’s going to help this team a lot down the road.”
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.