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Guardians 5, Rays 3: Death by soft contact

David Peralta’s debut spoiled by light hitting Guardians.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the era of exit velocity defining top offenses, the Cleveland Guardians got the better of one of baseball’s best pitchers this afternoon with nothing but the soft stuff.

But on the note of exit velocity, we should start with the new veteran outfielder David Peralta, who made a quick trip to Tampa Bay following his acquisition, and went right to work in the training room and batting cage Sunday morning.

This photo exudes veteran presence.

The Rays put Peralta where he would be most comfortable in his debut: starting in left field and batting fifth.

Tropicana Field can be a notoriously difficult for outfielders not used to the tarped dome, particularly during a day game, and with Peralta only playing at Tropicana Field twice previously over his nine-year career, placing him in left to start his Rays campaign was a kindness.

Also displaying kindness was rookie Taylor Walls, who opted to give the veteran Peralta his No. 6 jersey and becoming the second Rays player in team history to don the No. 0 (following Mallex Smith in 2018).

Peralta nearly homered in his second trip to the plate, giving one a 102 mph ride to the warning track, then singled in his third plate appearance on a 103 mph liner that went under the diving second baseman. It’s a shame he hadn’t done that in the first inning with two men on!

On to the loss.

The Cleveland Guardians blooped their way into an early lead against Shane McClanahan, as soft hits by the bottom of the lineup found their way just out of reach of Rays defenders, even with Sugar Shane still pitching like his dominant self. His first inning strikeout of Jose Ramirez left one of baseball’s best reeling, Shane was still Shane, but sometimes the bounces don’t go your way.

Shane buckled down and only allowed two more hits in his night, matching his season high, but exited the fifth inning after walking his final two batters faced, leaving the bases loaded in what will read like his worst performance of the season thus far in the spreadsheet at just 4.1 innings pitched. Brian Anderson on the broadcast rightfully described the afternoon as a “perfect storm” of what can go wrong for a pitcher, with the average exit velocity on the seven hits allowed by McClanahan against Cleveland only 74.5 mph.

Ryan Thompson was called upon with one out and bases juiced and coaxed a lineout, but No. 8 hitter Austin Hedges had yet another bloop into center at 79 mph, scoring two runs. These were Thompson’s first runs allowed in 15 appearances, and pushed Shane’s total to the night to 5 earned.

As for the Rays offense, in the bottom of the second Isaac Paredes lined one up the left field line that bounced around, allowing him to walk into second base, and then a wild pitch and errant throw allowed Paredes to make his way home just as easily for the Rays first run.

Ji-Man Choi, one of baseball’s best with RISP this season, was the source of the Rays next two runs in the game. After Paredes scored in the second Yu Chang walked and was batted around to third on a Roman Quinn ground rule double that bounced over the wall in right field line. He then scored on a Ji-Man Choi fielder’s choice. Later in the fourth, Choi scored Paredes with a sac fly to center.

Sadly, that was the end of the scoring, and the Rays dropped the series.

Also of note: The Rays now lead the majors in outs on the base paths in double digits with 51 outs on the season after Rodney Linares accidentally made an aggressive send home of Brandon Lowe in the fifth (killing a potential rally) and Roman Quinn got picked off in the sixth.

All in all, this was a frustrating game I hope you didn’t watch. The Rays are 3-7 in their last ten (aka as of the All-Star Break), and will have an off-day tomorrow prior to a two-game homestand against the rival Blue Jays. Thankfully, the Rays remain in position for the Wild Card.