ARLINGTON, Texas – A big part of Monday night revolved around the encouraging performance from superstar Shane McClanahan, who made an impressive comeback from the injured list, looking strong with every pitch and feeling good doing so.
But there was another disappointing ending, and a strange one at the time, as the Rays lost 3-2 on a savage home field near Pete Fairbanks.
The Rangers had a third down man with two outs and Mitch Garver at the plate with a 1-1 count when Fairbanks fired a fastball at 100.4 mph that looked like it was snatched, bouncing wide off the plate and past Christian Bethancourt, allowing the pinch-runner Josh Smith home run.
“It was yanked—it felt like it came out of my hands very hot and unfortunately not real near the strike zone,” said Fairbanks. “Tough way to lose. A difficult way of trying to avoid danger and put yourself in a place to escape, and then try to do a lot of effort and it ends up like that.”
There was nothing Bethancourt could do, said manager Kevin Cash, a former catcher.
“(Fairbanks) is doing a pretty good job there, pitching some big pitches, and certainly a few big pitches to (All-Star Adulis Garcia, who hit him after driving in Josh Jung with a double),” Cash said. “You trust Pete to go bad in time. He might have been really bad and pulled the fastball.”
Like his style, Fairbanks said, it was about wanting to beat Garver.
“I try to blow his doors off and I knock him down. I never try to back up and get away. I try to throw fastballs by people. And sometimes when you do that you drop him and that’s the result. It’s a tough time doing that with a runner on third.”
The Rays, now 31-30 since a 29-7 start, finished the night still in sole possession of No. 1 in the East in an American League best 60-37; Back in the game, the Orioles also lost their eight-game winning streak by the Dodgers.
But things looked more promising for the Rays early in the game.
Yandy Diaz, returning to the lineup for the first time as a dad, slapped a leadoff single to lead off a single. Josh Lowe came in second and got the added satisfaction of running next to big brother Nathaniel and saying something to him. “I can’t repeat what I told him,” Josh said. “Just some brotherly love.”
McClanahan, who was starting for the first time since June 30 when a repeat back strain put him on the injured list, was sharp from the start. He actually allowed a leadoff single to Marcus Simien, but then got Corey Seeger to play a double, starting a streak of 14 straight running backs against the highest-scoring team in the majors.
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Commanding and controlling, McClanahan shuffled all four pitches, hit 99 mph with his fastball, struck out six while walking none, and efficiently threw 52 of his 69 pitches in strikeouts over the six innings.
“It felt good to be back out there,” McClanahan said. “It feels good to feel like myself again. I feel like I worked it all out (Monday). It sucks, the end result, but I feel like I have a lot of good things to work on.”
Cash was equally pleased, “ecstatic” with the performance and efficiency.
McClanahan took a 2-0 lead in the sixth, but quickly lost it. Robbie Grossman reached one of the stones on Wanderer Franco’s football diving deep into the hole, then Ezequiel Duran hit a home run on what looked like a good pitch, a high 97.2 mph fastball that was just wide. the plate.
“I got healthy, got the rest I needed and made the adjustments I needed,” McClanahan said. “I felt really good (Monday). Honestly, it was probably the best I’ve felt all season. That two-home run was one of those things where they get paid to hit the ball, and you kind of take your hat off, and you go forward.”
It was only the fourth time in 26 seasons that the Rays had lost on the field, and the first since 2009.
Does the weirdness in any way relieve the sting?
“Yeah, an unfortunate way (to lose),” said Cash. “I mean, I don’t know. Losing is losing. … It might be a little better, if they hit the ball and push a guy in. So I can appreciate that thinking.”
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