DETROIT — The Rays have had a hard enough time this season keeping healthy pitchers on the mound, with 18 spending time on the injured list.
Saturday, pitching coach Kyle Snyder hurt his right calf muscle on his way to the mound during the seventh inning and had to turn back to the dugout. Manager Kevin Cash went out to visit Shane McClanahan instead.
“Tweaked, pulled, popped,” Cash said. “I’m not quite sure.”
It was a painful night for the Rays all around, as the confidence they drew from having McClanahan, their All-Star starter, on the mound was negated by an overall flawed performance in a 9-1 loss to the Tigers. They faltered at the plate, on the mound and in the field.
The defeat snapped the Rays’ modest three-game winning streak, dropping their record to 57-50 as they hung on to one of three American League wild-card playoff opportunities.
McClanahan was better than in his last and uncharacteristically rough outing — when he lasted only 4-1/3 innings Sunday against Cleveland, yielding five runs and striking out a season-low four — but not overly sharp.
Saturday, he allowed four runs (one scoring after he left) and six hits but struck out only three, throwing 92 pitches over 6-1/3 innings.
McClanahan said he felt fine physically and was in “a way better spot” with his delivery and stuff than last time. “I thought I threw the ball well (Saturday),? he said. “I thought I responded well, filled up the zone.”
McClanahan said he felt he faced some hitters who were battling him well but got some bad breaks.
“Yeah, it’s very frustrating,” he said, “I want to bust my butt every single time I get the ball for these guys. It just didn’t go my way. I thought I threw the ball better than my line would show.”
Cash put a similar spin on the outing, saying the Rays’ ace did fine (though noting he threw more fastballs and fewer breaking balls early) and the game got away from them quickly in the seventh.
With Tampa Bay down 2-1, McClanahan allowed a single, double and a sacrifice fly before being lifted. Detroit went on to score four more with new reliever Jimmy Yacabonis on the mound.
Infielder Yu Chang, who last pitched in high school in Taiwan, took over for the eighth.
“I thought Shane threw the ball really, really well,” Cash said. “But it did (get away. The Tigers) came up, they put some good at-bats together, it seemed like they started recognizing the change-up a little bit.”
Still, Cash said he saw progress from McClanahan, who at 128-1/3 innings is pushing his previous career high. “I thought his stuff was really good and better than what we had seen his last start,” Cash said, “so encouraged by that.”
There wasn’t much else good on the night.
The Rays’ offense again was quiet and failed to take advantage of opportunities, starting with leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They got their lone run on a Chang homer in the second and didn’t do much else, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and leaving 11 on.
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“Bases loaded less than two outs, first-and-third a couple times with one out and two outs,” Cash said. “We’ve got to do a better job. One solo homer is not going to get it done.”
The defense didn’t execute in a key situation in the fifth, the Tigers’ go-ahead run scoring from first on a double to left as the Rays botched the relay. David Peralta’s throw to shortstop Taylor Walls bounced, and Walls’ throw home took a high hop that catcher Christian Bethancourt couldn’t handle.
“Ideally, we make a better play on that,” Cash said. “It gives us a chance. We had the guy beat.”
The karma seemed off for the Rays all night in front of a sellout crowd that watched Tigers great Lou Whitaker get his No. 1 retired.
Consider Jose Siri’s foul pop-up down the right-field line in the fourth. First baseman Harold Castro gave chase, the ball hit off his glove but bounced toward hard-charging rightfielder Willi Castro, who made the catch. “I didn’t like that play,” Cash said. “It sucked.”
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