Rays’ ‘incredible’ Shane McClanahan (8-0) takes on Cubs

May 19, 2023; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan (18) reacts after a strikeout against the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Shane McClanahan’s exceptional mound work is just another reason why the Tampa Bay Rays are the majors’ best team two months into the season.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks hopes to find a rhythm following his anticipated 2023 debut.

McClanahan aims to become the first Rays pitcher to go 9-0 when Tampa Bay tries to even a three-game set with the host Cubs on Tuesday night.

After going 22-14 with a 2.92 ERA in his first two major league seasons, and earning an All-Star nod in 2022, McClanahan (8-0, 1.97 ERA) has been even better this year.

Entering Monday’s play, the left-hander ranked first in the majors in wins, second in ERA and fifth in opponents’ batting average (.202). Only once has McClanahan allowed more than two runs and, perhaps most importantly, Tampa Bay is 10-1 in his starts.

“Every time he’s out there, we know we have a great chance of winning a baseball game,” Rays outfielder Luke Raley said. “He’s incredible. … I’m really glad he’s my teammate.”

McClanahan yielded only a run and four hits, without a walk, and struck out seven in seven innings of Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over Toronto to join Matt Moore (2013) and Charlie Morton (2019) as the only Rays to open 8-0.

“As long as I help this team and put them in a good situation to win, that’s really, truly, all I care about,” McClanahan said.

His only appearance against the Cubs came on April 18 of last season at Wrigley Field, where he yielded a two-run homer to Patrick Wisdom, three other hits and fanned nine in six innings. McClanahan’s mound opponent that day was Hendricks (0-1, 6.23 ERA this season), who gave up two runs, five hits and two walks, while striking out six over 4 1/3 innings.

Back from a shoulder injury, the veteran Chicago right-hander made his first start since July 2022 on Thursday, when he was charged with five runs (three earned) and six hits, while walking two with five strikeouts, over 4 1/3 innings of a 10-1 loss to the New York Mets. Though Hendricks’ overall effort didn’t help produce a victory, the fact he’s on a big-league mound again is important — for now.

“I’m sure that’s a good one he can put behind him,” Chicago manager David Ross said. “Building off that is going to key for him, and for us.”

Hendricks has a tough act to follow after teammate Marcus Stroman tossed a one-hitter on Monday, as the Cubs snapped their four-game skid with a 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay. It was a rather impressive feat, considering the major-league-leading Rays, who had totaled 38 runs while winning four of their previous five contests, entered the series leading baseball in several offensive categories, including runs (335), hits (510), batting average (.273), homers (101) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.848).

Wander Franco had the Rays’ only hit Monday and is 11-for-23 in his last six games.

Meanwhile, Dansby Swanson recorded one of Chicago’s three hits in the opener. He’s 5-for-12 in his last three games. Teammate Mike Tauchman drove in the Cubs’ lone run Monday with a sacrifice fly and is batting .308 in 10 games since making his 2023 debut on May 19.

Chicago is 12-24 since opening 11-6.

–Field Level Media

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