It’s not often that a win of this margin feels “hard-fought,” but that’s what happened this afternoon at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay — purveyors of some of the most “sneaky good” players in baseball — started Shane McClanahan today, the young lefty who served as the Rays’ first-round pick back in 2018. He only has 30 major-league starts to his name, but he won’t be sneaky for long; with the numbers he’s put up to start his major-league career, he may gain national recognition at the All-Star Game as early as this summer.
McClanahan did it all today; five innings, 11 strikeouts, and just four hits allowed — carving his way through the Minnesota lineup, he got swings and misses from just about everybody using his debilitating pitch mix. But there was one guy he didn’t count on — noted lefty crusher Kyle Garlick.
Hitting third in a reconstructed Baldelli-approved batting order, Garlick powered a pitch to dead center in the first inning, tagging Sugar Shane for an early run and boosting team confidence before three outs had been recorded.
The Rays would get the run back in the second; it wasn’t the smoothest day for Chris Archer, who let in a game-tying homer from Taylor Walls. Altogether, Archer went four innings and walked three, but kept the score at 1-1.
It wasn’t until the sixth inning that the Twins found their way back to home plate; and who could it be but Garlick all over again? With Correa aboard, he smoked his second dinger of the day, and gave the Twins a 3-1 advantage.
It would be the end of an otherwise dominant day for the Tampa starter; and unfortunately for the Rays, the Twins would pounce on the bullpen offerings. Minnesota added another two runs in the seventh — Trevor Larnach drilled an RBI double into right, and scored when Max Kepler (hitting for Garlick) blooped a two-out single over the shift.
The floodgates would open in the ninth. Facing Javy Guerra, here’s the inning the Twins put together:
- Larnach grounds out, 4-3
- Jorge Polanco doubles
- Carlos Correa singles; Larnach scores (6-1 Twins)
- Kepler homers; Correa and Kepler score (8-1 Twins)
- Gio Urshela strikes out
- Gary Sanchez doubles
- Luis Arraez singles; Brooks Raley replaces Guerra
- Ryan Jeffers singles; Sanchez scores
- Gilberto Celestino singles
- Larnach strikes out (bummer!)
All told, Minnesota had pushed their hit count to 14 on the day; compare that to the Rays, who managed four measly hits all afternoon, and did not return to scoring after their second-inning homer.
It’s not often that a pitcher can turn in a performance like McClanahan did, and watch as the opposing team pieces together an outing that ultimately yields better results. Archer, Cody Stashak, Jhoan Duran, Joe Smith, and Caleb Thielbar did just that, and allowed the Twins to even the series.
Minnesota is set up to take the weekend set from a really tough opponent — they’ll give it a go tomorrow afternoon.
Twins bullpen (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K)
SS Carlos Correa (3-for-5, 2 R, RBI)
LF Kyle Garlick (2-for-3, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 HR)
RF Max Kepler (2-for-2, R, 3 RBI, HR)
C Ryan Jeffers (2-for-5, 2B, RBI)
You gotta be kidding me, man!
ROBOT ROLL CALL:
Somebody not named Goose explains the stock market.