The Tampa Bay Rays expect to get a boost Thursday afternoon when left-hander Shane McClanahan returns for the finale of their five-game series with the host Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays (81-62) clinched the series with a 5-1 victory Wednesday night. They have won three of the first four games of the set, tied the season series with Tampa Bay at 7-7, and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Rays (79-63) in the American League wild-card standings. The Seattle Mariners (80-62) are a-half game behind the Blue Jays in the wild-card race.
McClanahan (shoulder impingement) is an important part of the Rays being in contention for a postseason spot. He is expected to be reinstated from the injured list in time to pitch for the Rays for the first time since Aug. 24 — a needed boost for a team that has lost five of its last six.
McClanahan (11-5, 2.20 ERA) has an 0.86 WHIP and 182 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings over 24 starts this season.
“I’m happy to be back, but being back now is the most important thing for me,” McClanahan said Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously, I wouldn’t want to miss any games in the first place, but I’m glad to come back now.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash said that McClanahan will “certainly” have a limited workload in his first start back.
“I’m excited; we’re all excited to get him back,” Cash said. “We’ll be very mindful of his workload. But if he’s as efficient as he can be, it should give us a good start, and then we can hand it over to the bullpen.”
“I was very frustrated,” McClanahan said. “Obviously, with the timing, you’re not sure if it’s season (ending) or what. Even if it’s minor, a little setback can cause trouble down the road. Ultimately, the frustration led to optimism.”
McClanahan Is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in four career starts against the Blue Jays.
He will be facing Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman (12-9, 3.31 ERA).
Gausman is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP in three starts against Tampa Bay this season. In 20 career games (18 starts) against the Rays, he is 8-7 with a 3.61 ERA.
The Blue Jays got off to a fast start Wednesday when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 28th homer of the season (and the 100th of his career) in the first inning.
It was his first home run since Aug. 30. He also grounded into a double play for the 24th time this season.
Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider figured that Guerrero was close to ending his home run drought.
“I think I said a couple of days ago, I think he’s really close to breaking out,” Schneider said before the game on Wednesday. “He’s obviously being pitched very deliberately by Tampa and a few other teams. He’s really focusing on getting the ball up in the strike zone. I think we all see the results when the ball is down in the strike zone and where the ball goes off his bat.”
Guerrero also had an RBI on a fielder’s choice Wednesday.
“With a hitter like that, you have to be patient and know he is going to do his thing,” Schneider said.
–Field Level Media