You’re somebody until the Tampa Bay Rays beat you.
Detractors will are quickly running out of making any legitimate argument about the Rays' hot start this season as they convincingly seal the series win between the teams with the best records in baseball, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1.
These Pirates certainly aren’t nobodies, though; the Rays did their best to make the best team in the National League look that way.
Shane McClanahan started things by striking out Ke’Bryan Hayes to open the game. Bryan Reynolds followed it up with a double on a sharp line drive to left field, putting a runner in scoring position. The Pirates could not capitalize on the opportunity, as Andrew McCutchen flew out to right field. Carlos Santana walked to put two on base with two outs but McClanahan was able to work his way out of the inning with no runs allowed by striking out Connor Joe.
Mitch Keller got off to a great start for the Pirates, retiring the Rays in order with Yandy Diaz flying out, Wander Franco striking out swinging, and Harold Ramirez striking out swinging.
In the top of the third, Andrew McCutchen gave the Pirates some hope, hitting a solo homer (EV 95.8 mph, LA 34 deg, 357 ft) to give the Pirates an early 1-0 lead.
The Rays responded with a rally in the bottom half of the inning. After back-to-back groundouts, back-to-back singles by Yandy Diaz and Wander Franco put the Rays in scoring position. Harold Ramirez then reached on an error after hitting a grounder to Rodolfo Castro that could not be fielded, scoring Diaz. Brandon Lowe followed with a two-run double to put the Rays up 3-1.
In this game, the Pirates had 99 problems, and a pitch clock was one. At least what seemed to be manager Derek Shelton’s perception of the operation. While McClanahan was on the mound pitching in the top of the fourth, Shelton started arguing and storming the field to argue with the umpires and was ejected from the game.
Pirates manager Derek Shelton on the hot mic:— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) May 3, 2023
"[The homeplate umpire] is telling me he's not the f---ing buzzer. Who the f--k is in charge of it?"
HP umpires are supposed to be wearing a buzzer to alert them when the pitch clock ticks down. pic.twitter.com/VXU3okE0oN
The Rays added to their lead in the fifth inning. Francisco Mejia’s leadoff double got things started. Wander Franco reached safely on a throwing error by Pirates’ second baseman Ji Hwan Bae allowing Diaz to score. Harold Ramirez also added an RBI single to give the Rays a comfortable 5-1 lead. Taylor Walls blasted a ball to centerfield that was just shy of adding on to the Rays lead and instead closed out the inning.
McClanahan played like he is in the top tier of starting pitchers. He had a strong outing finishing with 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K, and 1 HR on 93 pitches. McClanahan’s one mistake was a home run to Andrew McCutchen in the 3rd inning, but he otherwise kept the Pirates at bay.
Shane McClanahan, 7th, 8th and 9th Ks. pic.twitter.com/4fowi1pznJ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 4, 2023
In the bottom of the sixth, Josh Lowe absolutely launched a homer (EV 111.8 mph, LA 27 deg, 455 feet) that went off the D-Ring and hit the oversized image of himself on the back wall scoreboard. Rays lead 6-1.
Chase Anderson entered the game in the seventh, relieving McClanahan. A pitcher coming off the plane and only allowing a single in their first inning the same day would be impressive. For a moment, Franco stole the show with the most incredible and morale-crushing play. He fielded a grounder at short and, before making the throw to first, playfully flipped the ball to himself and then made the successful throw to get the out at first base. Bryan Reynolds was running his fastest and couldn’t beat out the throw. Bless his heart.
If that wasn’t enough, immediately after the commercial break, Franco hit a solo homer (EV 106.4 mph, LA 26 deg, 425 feet) to lead off the seventh inning to give the Rays a 7-1 lead. What a Wander-ful five-minute sequence.
Just a casual five minutes in the life of Wander Franco pic.twitter.com/H6SfEMgdWp— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 4, 2023
The Rays added on a run in the bottom of the eight on a Luke Raley RBI-double that would have been a home run in nine other ballparks but not the Trop to extend the Rays lead to 8-1.
Back to Chase Anderson. What an incredible day for him, starting on a plane at seven in the morning to entering a game with his new team in the seventh inning, and completing a three-inning save. From AAA starting pitcher to contributor for the best team in baseball.
The Rays continue to exert their dominance into the month of May. They look to complete the series sweep of the Pirates when the two teams meet again tomorrow at 1:10 pm ET as Zach Eflin (3-0, 3.00) takes the mound for the Rays opposite Vince Velasquez (4-2, 3.06) for the Pirates.