Rookie pitchers face off as Rays meet Orioles


Tampa Bay left-hander Shane McClanahan looks to continue his impressive run when the Rays visit the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

The 24-year-old rookie has pitched five or more innings while allowing three earned runs or fewer in seven of his past eight starts.

Last time out, McClanahan (5-4, 3.74 ERA) beat the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. He gave up one run on four hits in six innings while striking out seven and walking two as the Rays completed a three-game sweep of their division rivals.

“I feel like once you start letting outside distractions get in, that’s when you lose focus on what you need to do,” McClanahan said. “I took the ball like it was any other game, and ultimately, that’s how I approached it.”

The Baltimore native defeated the Orioles on July 20, giving up one run on four hits in five innings. He struck out seven and walked one in his only career appearance vs. Baltimore.

The Orioles will counter with rookie right-hander Spenser Watkins (2-2, 3.81), who makes his sixth major league start and seventh appearance.

Watkins has dropped his past two starts, including Sunday, when he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Tigers, the team that drafted him in 2014. He pitched six seasons in the Detroit farm system.

“To have that opportunity, finally, after years of seeing it from the outside in, was incredible,” Watkins said. “There were a lot of emotions early on, and I had to wrangle them in during that first inning. But after that, I felt comfortable.”

Watkins gave up just one earned run in each of his first three starts, his best of which occurred on July 19 at Tampa Bay. He went a career-long six innings and gave up a run on four hits and two walks while striking out seven.

In the series opener Friday, Tampa Bay’s Nelson Cruz hit a game-tying, three-run homer in the sixth inning, and his tiebreaking, two-run double in a five-run eighth rallied the Rays past the Orioles 10-6.

The former Oriole came into the game hitting .184 with two homers and three RBIs in 10 games since being acquired from the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline, but he improved those numbers by going 2-for-6 with five RBIs on Friday.

“That’s why I was brought here,” Cruz said. “It definitely feels good to drive those runs in, especially in those situations.”

The Rays, 11-5 over their past 16 games, opened a nine-game road trip by continuing their season-long dominance over the Orioles, beating Baltimore for the ninth time in 10 meetings.

Pedro Severino had three hits, including a home run, and Austin Hays also went deep for the Orioles, who have lost three straight.

Baltimore’s Ryan Mountcastle extended his hitting streak to eight games but was caught stealing second in the first inning when he was tagged on his head. He stayed in the game but left in the third inning, and the Orioles announced he was being evaluated per concussion protocols.

Manager Brandon Hyde did not have an update on Mountcastle’s condition after the game.

Orioles designated hitter Trey Mancini ended an 0-for-17 skid with two doubles.

Baltimore starter John Means left with a 5-2 lead after five innings, but the Rays rallied against the Orioles’ relievers.

“We struggled out of the ‘pen,” Hyde said. “That was definitely a disappointing loss.”

–Field Level Media

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