ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After a sloppy weekend in Baltimore, the Tampa Bay Rays returned to their traditional formula on Tuesday night in a snappy 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins. They pitched it great, scored more than enough — and had a blast doing it.
They topped their in-state rivals thanks to another incredible start from ace Shane McClanahan. He pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out nine batters. That's 74 on the year now, tops in the majors. He's 4-2 on the season with a 2.06 earned run average and has allowed just one earned run in his last three starts, covering 20 innings.
"How he's going about it, Shane is giving us every opportunity to win games,'' Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. "Pitch count got up a little, but I thought his whole night was special. His whole season has been special so far. Coming off a series we weren't thrilled about, he was probably the ideal guy to come in and set the tone.
The fun started on the very first pitch in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Kevin Kiermaier, who's been on fire with 11 hits in four games prior to Tuesday, hit a line drive that Miami center fielder Jesus Sanchez broke in on and dove for, but couldn't come up with it. It skipped by him and rolled all the way to the wall.
Kiermaier kept on running, and got waved home, beating the throw for an inside-the-park home run.
It was the first time in Rays history that someone had hit an inside-the-park on the first pitch, and it's the 33rd time its happened in the major leagues since pitch-by-pitch data started being kept in 1973.
"It felt good to get something going early there. I got tired twice there running the bases,'' said Kiermaier, who was 2-for-4 and now has five straight multi-hit games.. "I definitely could have run faster, but it ended up working out. I was safe just in the nick of time. An inside-the-parker on the first pitch, that was fun, and the guys were great in the dugout.
"I thought I had a chance (when the ball got past Sanchez). That's a play you dream of, and I had to turn the jets on there. I might need to up my conditioning program a little bit, just in case it happens again in the future. I don't think I caught my breath until about the third inning.''
McClanahan was so good that the Rays didn't really need any more runs, but they added on anyway. Harold Ramirez hit a home run in the second inning — his first of the season — and Ji-Man Choi added a two-run insurance shot in the sixth.
Dusten Knight, who was just called up on Sunday when Andrew Kittredge went on the injured list, pitched two innings of one-hit relief, and Ryan Thompson, who has been struggling of late, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to end it.
The Rays lost two extra inning game in Baltimore, and had to stew about in on an off-day prior to a big week at Tropicana Field. They have two games with the Marlins, and a huge four-game series with the New York Yankees this weekend.
"That was a big bounce-back win,'' Kiermaier said. "We're feeling good about ourselves again, and we'll come to the ballpark confident again (on Wednesday) and we'll look to sweep a quick two-game series.''
Ramirez was thrilled to get his first homer, a shot down the line in left.
"I was excited, because I've been working to hit the ball into the air more the last four or five days. I was hitting too many ground balls,'' Ramirez said.
Ramirez was impressed with another brilliant outing from McClanahan.
"He does his job every time,'' Ramirez said. "He loves to fight, he likes to compete. I love to see him pitch. I'm glad I am on his team.''
Related stories on Rays baseball
- JUST FOR STARTERS: Here's the breakdown on Shane McClanahan's start, including his complete postgame press conference. CLICK HERE
- KIERMAIER'S HOMER: Here's the video of Kevin Kiermaier's inside-the-park home run, and his full postgame press conference. CLICK HERE
- RAYS 2022 SCHEDULE: Here is the complete 2022 schedule for the Tampa Bay Rays, with results and stats from every game far, and dates, locations and gametimes for the rest of the season. CLICK HERE