Pitchers take center stage as Padres host Rays

Field Level Media
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Jun 5, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan (18) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park.
Jun 5, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan (18) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park.
Image: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

It's a fair question.

Did San Diego Padres manager Bob Melvin out-think himself when he juggled his rotation and sent Ryan Weathers out against the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday? The move was made to save Yu Darvish for Friday's opener of a three-game series against baseball's beat team -- the Tampa Bay Rays -- in San Diego

Maybe the Padres would have completed their first three-game sweep of the season with Darvish facing Cleveland. Instead, the Padres lost as Weathers was routed early


Now the right-handed Darvish (5-4, 4.30 ERA) is paired against the early front-runner for the American League Cy Young Award -- left-hander Shane McClanahan, who paces all major league pitchers with a 10-1 record and also has a stellar ERA (2.18).

At this point, it might not matter who any team sends out against the 26-year-old McClanahan, whom Tampa Bay selected in the first round of the 2018 draft. The Rays, who won their 50th game of the season Thursday in Oakland, are 12-2 in McClanahan's 14 starts


And McClanahan enters Friday night's game riding a streak of retiring 15 consecutive hitters after getting off to a slow start against the American League West-leading Texas Rangers in his most recent outing on Sunday.

"He's showing so much poise," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said after McClanahan held the Rangers to three runs on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts over seven innings. "When things are going great, he finds a way to take it to another level. He doesn't dwell on a bad inning or a bad pitch. He quickly puts it behind him and moves on."

Against Texas, McClanahan gave up three runs for only the second time this season; he allowed four to the New York Yankees on May 13. He will face the Padres for the first time in his career. Actually, this is the first time McClanahan will pitch against any National League West team

Using a three-pitch -- fastball, changeup, slider -- repertoire, McClanahan has a 1.113 WHIP and has allowed a .206 opponents' batting average. He has given up 20 runs this season on 62 hits and 30 walks with 92 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings and leads the majors.


After just 67 career starts, McClanahan has a 32-15 record with a 2.76 ERA.

Darvish, on the other hand, is a 36-year-old veteran who has a variety of pitches and speeds. He has won three of his past four decisions and has worked five or more innings in 39 of his past 40 outings. All that could be doubly important Friday night. The Padres used five relievers to cover 7 1/3 innings Thursday night after Weathers was lifted


"A lot of our relievers will pitch this weekend," Melvin said late Thursday night. "We have to determine how much and who is available."

Darvish seems to be hitting his stride after a slow start. In two June starts, both wins, he has given up four runs on seven hits and five walks with 15 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings - for a 2.92 ERA.


Earlier this season, Melvin discussed Darvish's ability to go deeper into games when the bullpen has been taxed. Melvin hopes that will be the case against the Rays

--Field Level Media