The three-game series between the New York Yankees and the visiting Tampa Bay Rays this week is rife with intriguing pitching matchups.
Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan against Yankees right-hander Nestor Cortes might be the topper on Wednesday night.
McClanahan (7-2, 1.87 ERA) leads the major leagues with 98 strikeouts, is tied for fourth in wins and is fifth in ERA.
Cortes (5-2, 1.96) has the seventh-lowest ERA in the majors.
As good as both have been this season, McClanahan and Cortes will have tough acts to follow after the pitching performances delivered in the series opener on Tuesday night.
New York right-hander Gerrit Cole threw six strong innings en route to a 2-0 victory, the Yankees’ 12th win in 13 games.
Corey Kluber did not allow an earned run over six innings for the Rays, but he took the loss after two fourth-inning miscues in the outfield led to a pair of unearned runs.
Kluber is a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, but McClanahan has separated himself as the best pitcher for Tampa Bay this season. The lefty is 6-0 with a 1.19 ERA over his past seven starts.
“I think he’s putting himself in a category here for two months of the season, a pretty special, elite category,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “When you have that stuff and you have that command, that’s why he’s there.”
After going 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA in three starts against the Yankees as a rookie last season, McClanahan beat New York last month. He allowed just one run and seven hits in six innings during a 4-2 victory on May 29.
He pitched past the seventh inning for the first time in his major league career and won his fifth straight start in his latest outing. McClanahan held the St. Louis Cardinals to one run, which was unearned, on two hits in eight innings during a 2-1 victory on Thursday.
“It’s a nice step in the right direction,” McClanahan said of the deepest start of his career. “I want to pitch in October, and want to help this team get to where we want to be.”
Cortes had won four consecutive starts before taking a loss in his most recent outing. He gave up a season-high four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of an 8-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on June 8 in Minneapolis, the only defeat for New York this month.
Coming into that game, Cortes had allowed three runs or fewer in 19 straight outings, the second-longest streak in team history, trailing only Russ Ford’s 20-start run bridging the 1910-11 seasons.
“At the end of the day, it’s my 11th start of the season,” Cortes said of the rough outing. “Obviously, there’s going to be ups and downs. It’s just whether you come back the next time and weather the storm.”
Cortes has made eight appearances against the Rays in his career, including three starts, going 1-1 with a 3.41 ERA. He beat Tampa Bay on May 26 when he fired eight-plus innings of one-run ball in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Rays received some discouraging news on catcher Mike Zunino, who made his first All-Star team last season while hitting a career-high 33 home runs.
Zunino has missed the past four games due to a shoulder injury, and he will undergo an MRI exam after a lack of improvement, Cash said.
–Field Level Media