BOSTON — The Rays would rather have been at home Monday, playing golf, hanging out at the beach or even just sleeping in, somehow enjoying a rare off day.
But due to Friday’s rainout, they were forced by Major League Baseball and the Red Sox to work — again in cold and wet conditions — and made the best of it.
With the usual sturdy start from Shane McClanahan, who moved up a day to face the Red Sox, and a five-hit rally that led to three fifth-inning runs, the Rays rolled to a 4-1 win. And they — finally — returned home with a 4-3 mark on the extended trip to Chicago and Boston, and a majors-best 43-19 record.
“If we’re going to have to work on an off day, we might as well win,” outfielder Luke Raley said. “So we won. That’s all that matters.”
They did for a number of reasons:
• McClanahan got off to an uncharacteristically rough start, walking two of the first three batters, throwing eight of his first 13 pitches for balls. But he got a ground ball from Rafael Devers that shortstop Wander Franco turned into a double play and pretty much cruised from there.
“The first batter I thought I made some good pitches and it didn’t go my way, and then I got out of it,” McClanahan said. “After that first inning, I was really committed to just getting ahead and staying ahead and then making quality pitches in and out of the zone.”
McClanahan worked six solid innings, allowing five hits and the two walks, but only one run — on Justin Turner’s homer in the sixth. He also struck out five in improving to 9-1 with a 2.02 ERA.
As for how quickly he turned things around?
“He’s really good. I mean, I think that’s the best way to answer it,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He kind of got irritated with himself and took it to another gear and kind of locked it in.”
• The hitters remained patient against starter Brayan Bello through some early bad luck, with Raley and Francisco Mejia getting robbed of homers by Sox outfielders in the quirky dimensions of Fenway Park.
They broke through in the fifth, rapping five hits and scoring three.
Raley, who later got robbed of another hit, doubled off the Green Monster to lead off the inning. Manuel Margot singled him in and raced to second, which mattered as he moved up on a groundout and scored on a single by Mejia. Singles by Yandy Diaz and Franco loaded the bases, and good hustle by Josh Lowe on a grounder to second prevented a double play, making it 3-0.
Among other things, Cash lauded Raley’s persistence and Lowe’s positivity: “We did seem to string together some good at-bats all at one time and took advantage to get some runs.”
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The Rays added a run in the seventh when Franco doubled in between three walks by Sox reliever Nick Pivetta.
• The defense made several key plays.
Vidal Brujan, who stepped in well for injured second baseman Brandon Lowe, turned in two, snaring a liner for the third out of the fourth inning and starting a dazzling double play to end the sixth after Justin Turner’s homer off McClanahan closed the gap to 3-1.
Mejia had another, firing a strike to nab Alex Verdugo at second to end the eighth after Colin Poche struck out Devers.
“Bru was outstanding,” Cash said. “Awesome play. That play and Frankie’s double play on the throw-out, those were the two biggest plays of the game. Bru’s got a lot of athleticism over there, and we certainly saw it on that play.”
Given that they left home on May 28 and had already faced the challenge of the Red Sox scheduling a doubleheader on Saturday (ironically, to avoid playing Monday), the Rays would have preferred to make up the rained-out game during their Sept. 26-27 return visit to Boston, or at least on the off day preceding that series.
So, while there was some benefit to moving McClanahan up from his scheduled Tuesday start that would have been on six days’ rest, the Rays weren’t pleased to still be in Boston on Monday — even less so with a 4:06 p.m. start amid even more rain and temperatures in the 50s.
“I’d like for our players to get the off days that are on the schedule,” Cash said. “It’s unfortunate that it played out this way. But MLB decides we’re going to play, we need to play.”
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