ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday night was wildly frustrating for the Rays, but apparently it could have been worse.
They lost to the Astros, 5-0, falling two games behind the Blue Jays in the race for the AL wild card. His lineup was hitless through the fifth inning and was shutout for the second straight night at Tropicana Field, its first consecutive shutouts since Aug. 11-12, 2017. And ace Shane McClanahan walked off the mound with a trainer. during a plate appearance in the fifth inning of his second start since the 15-day disabled list.
The last point would seem to be the biggest concern, but McClanahan eased some potential concerns later. The All-Star southpaw was pulled due to tightness/spasms in the left side of his neck, not a recurrence of the left shoulder injury that sent him to the disabled list, and he believes he’ll be ready to make his next scheduled race. beginning.
“I fought to stay in the game. I feel good now. I felt good five seconds later,” McClanahan said. “But [in the] mid-September, I respect the precautionary measure. … I am ready to come back and help this team win.”
McClanahan walked Jose Altuve to start the fifth and then threw three straight balls below the strike zone to Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena. McClanahan appeared to wince and twist his neck after throwing a changeup during that sequence, which brought manager Kevin Cash and first assistant athletic trainer Mike Sandoval from the hometown dugout to the mound.
McClanahan appeared to tell Cash, “I’m fine,” on the mound, but left with Sandoval after a brief conversation. As Cash later noted, “I’d rather be proactive than not.” McClanahan was replaced by right-hander Shawn Armstrong, who went on to walk Peña.
“I was pretty convinced that I didn’t want to go out. He wasn’t happy about it. But we’re trying to make the best decision,” Cash said. “It’s the second start after missing some time on the disabled list. I think we all understand how important it is for our club.”
And, in light of recent events, why would the Rays be so cautious?
McClanahan was removed from his Aug. 30 start in Miami just minutes before his scheduled release and landed on the disabled list the next day with a left shoulder impingement. He served the minimum 15-day period, returned to the mound last Thursday in Toronto, pitched like he was at full strength and said Monday that he felt “normal.”
After leaving Tuesday’s game, McClanahan didn’t immediately return to the Rays’ clubhouse for treatment, an indication as obvious as any that he wasn’t overly concerned about his future condition. Instead, he stood next to pitching coach Kyle Snyder as the inning continued.
“Just a little adjustment, whatever you want to call it. I tried to stretch it, it felt good,” McClanahan said. They saw it and [exercised] abundance of caution, but I think it was the right move.”
Before that, catcher Francisco Mejia noted that McClanahan was “trying to find his dominance,” as he gave up four runs in his first three innings against the Astros. The All-Star starter has thrown 67 percent of his pitches for strikes this season, but only 45 of his 80 pitches were for strikes on Tuesday. and he walked four batters, the most of his career. He was charged with a career-high five runs overall, including one Armstrong allowed to score in the fifth.
McClanahan induced just two swinging strikes on 19 swings during his first trip through Houston’s lineup and five strikes on 52 pitches during his first three innings. He seemed to bounce back in the fourth, recording three strikeouts around a one-out walk, then left after throwing 10 pitches in the fifth.
“Obviously I’m frustrated. Come mid-September, we’re in a playoff race, I need to be better than that,” McClanahan said. “I could have done a much better job tonight executing pitches, throwing quality strikes and limiting the damage.”
Still, McClanahan would have had to be near perfect, given the way Houston has stifled Tampa Bay’s lineup. The Rays’ first hit was a two-out single by Christian Bethancourt in the fifth, and they didn’t get a runner to third until they loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. However, Ryan Pressly closed out that rally, extending the Rays’ scoreless streak to 20 innings.
“We just couldn’t deliver the final blow. Those are things that will happen in baseball,” Bethancourt said. “We’re facing a great pitching staff. We have to make some adjustments.”
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