Note: My voice is scratchy, I’m hungover, and despite the fact that the Rays front office hung a dark cloud over Saturday night’s sold-out contest at the Trop, I’m generally in good spirits. After all, the Rays are the AL East champs for the fourth time in franchise history, and for the second consecutive season. It’s also why I’m tardy with this post. Apologies for the tardiness.
After clinching the American League East on Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Rays look to tie a franchise record for wins in a season and move closer to clinching home-field advantage for the entirety of the 2021 American League playoffs.
At 96-59 on the season, Tampa Bay enters play 37-games above .500 and with a magic number of three to clinch home-field advantage over the Astros. If the Rays win this afternoon, they would need to win just one game in the upcoming road series against Houston to achieve that goal.
Tampa Bay picked up its MLB leading 46th comeback win behind a less than dominant, yet effective, start by Shane McClanahan.
Shane McClanahan allowed one run on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts through five innings on Saturday. The Marlins embarked on a hit parade against McClanahan across his first three frames, yet the southpaw retired eight of the final nine batters he faced to turn the tides of his evening. The only damage to McClanahan came on a third-inning solo homer off the bat of Miguel Rojas. After surrendering four runs in five innings against the Red Sox to start the month of September, McClanahan boasts a 1.20 ERA and a 3.25 K/BB in his last three starts. Overall, he maintains a 3.44 ERA and a 3.36 FIP, to go along with a 1.28 WHIP and a 3.73 K/BB across 120.1 innings of work.
THE NEW WHAT NEXT
Shane Baz (1-0, 3.60 ERA) will get the start in the Rays final regular-season home game of the 2021 campaign, pitching opposite of Jesus Luzardo (5-8, 7.01 ERA).
Shane Baz looked like he belonged in the big leagues on Monday, holding Toronto to two solo home runs over five innings, but relinquishing nothing else. The right-hander struck out two of the first three batters he faced in a perfect first inning and ended up with five punchouts on the night.
Leaning primarily on a mid-to-upper 90’s four-seam fastball and slider combination, while sprinkling 15 curveballs, Baz was both whiffy and efficient against one of the best hitting teams in baseball, throwing 65 pitches overall (51 strikes, 78% strike rate, 15 whiffs, 23% SwStr%). All told, Baz retired 15 of the 17 batters he faced.
Jesus Luzardo surrendered five runs on six hits and four walks while striking out two across four innings on Monday against the Nationals. The 23-year-old was pulled after two batters reached base against him to open the fifth inning, one of whom would score. It was his second consecutive sub-par turn, both of which were against Washington. In those two outings, he has allowed nine runs, 13 hits, and six walks across 8.1 frames. Luzardo maintains a 7.02 ERA and a 6.02 FIP, with a 1.78 K/BB, and a 1.67 WHIP over 86.0 innings on the season. He relies primarily on a 96 mph four-seam fastball that has slight arm-side run, a whiffy 84 mph slider with 12-6 movement, and a hard 87 mph changeup with natural sink, while also mixing in a 95 mph sinker.
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.
RAYS 9/26/21 STARTING LINEUP
- Margot RF
- Franco SS
- Cruz DH
- Arozarena LF
- Diaz 3B
- Luplow 1B
- Wendle 2B
- Mejia C
- Phillips CF
- Baz RHP
— I will write about the frankly stupid announcement by the Rays’ front office at a later time. Until then, I wanted to acknowledge that Tampa Bay averaged close to 16,000 fans per game over the course of the $10 ticket/$5 concession promotion. That’s not including the other promo/giveaway games. In short, good marketing works.