ST. PETERSBURG — Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan has been so startlingly effective, it’s almost stop-the-presses news when he’s short of that All-Star standard.
Sunday afternoon was one of those occasions.
McClanahan surrendered a career-high five runs and tied his shortest outing this season as the Rays fell 5-3 against the Cleveland Guardians before 18,023 fans at Tropicana Field.
McClanahan (10-4) lasted just 4 1/3 innings — his same workload as opening day — and his ERA rose from 1.76 to 2.06. McClanahan gave up a season-high seven hits — including a bunt and three bloopers — while walking three, striking out four and hitting a batter.
“It’s just how humbling the game of baseball is,” McClanahan said. “Things can be going right for so long, and one of these days (a sub-par outing) is just going to sprinkle in. Ultimately, it’s up to me to keep working hard and put myself in a good spot for the next start.”
The Rays dropped two out of three against the Guardians, losing a series against Cleveland for the first time since 2017. The Rays (54-48) now hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Guardians (52-49) for the American League’s third and final wild-card spot.
The Rays have floundered since the All-Star break, going 3-7. They could not build upon the positive vibes of Saturday’s 6-4 victory. Cleveland had an assortment of soft-contact hits, so the Rays couldn’t get any breaks either. They are 3-5 in McClanahan’s last eight starts.
“The stuff wasn’t as crisp as we’ve seen all season long,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I mean, the (velocity) was down a tick. Just didn’t quite have the finish to the off-speed pitches, and you could tell by Cleveland’s at-bats, they bunched together some hits. I didn’t feel like they were knocking them all over the ballpark, but they certainly found holes and were able to get some early runs off of him.
“To be honest, I was contemplating taking him out in the third inning. That would have been an opportunity to freshen him up with an off-day, but then we score some runs and we hang in the ballgame right there. We’re gonna have to look for spots for all these guys to make sure that we’re doing right by them and their workload.”
McClanahan departed in a 3-3 game with one out in the fifth inning while hitting the 96-pitch mark after walking consecutive batters to load the bases. Right-hander Ryan Thompson induced a line-out and was one strike from a getaway, but Austin Hedges blooped a two-run single to center for Cleveland’s 5-3 advantage.
From there, it was a struggle.
After McClanahan was lifted and the Guardians took the lead, the Rays managed just two runners in scoring position over the final five innings.
Want more than just the box score?
Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Brandon Lowe led off the fifth with a double off the rightfield wall and Randy Arozarena followed with a single. But third-base coach Rodney Linares sent Lowe, who was easily thrown out at the plate by Guardians leftfielder Steven Kwan.
“We know that the offense has been challenged here lately, and I think we’re all — myself included — trying to do everything we can to get a run across the board right there,” Cash said. “So (I) appreciate Rodney. He certainly wears it on his sleeve. He’s a really good third-base coach and wants to do everything he can to make the right decision.”
In the seventh, Lowe collected another double, a two-out chopper down the leftfield line against the shift. But he was stranded when Arozarena flew out to right.
McClanahan’s problems began in the second. He gave up Myles Straw’s bloop two-run single, just beyond the outstretched glove of second baseman Lowe, then Jose Ramirez’s two-out RBI single.
The Rays got two back in the bottom of the second. Isaac Paredes led off with a double to the leftfield corner, then moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by Hedges, the catcher. Ji-Man Choi later got an RBI grounder, making it 3-2, then tied it on a fourth-inning sacrifice fly. But once the Guardians retook the lead and McClanahan departed, the game drifted into a go-through-the-motions feel.
“It was just one of those days where nothing was going my way,” McClanahan said. “I felt like I didn’t have much life on anything I threw. I don’t think one start defines a season. I think I’ve done a lot of good this year. I think I can continue to do a lot more good and just keep working hard.’’
• • •
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.