ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The MLB regular season is over and the Tampa Bay Rays clinched the AL East crown. Next is the postseason, and the St. Pete-based team now knows who they will face in the American League Division Series: their division rivals, the Red Sox.
Boston sent the New York Yankees packing Tuesday night during the wild-card game.
Game 1 of the ALDS will be Thursday night under the Trop. It starts at 8 p.m.
Tampa Bay left-hander Shane McClanahan will start Game of 1 of the Rays’ AL Division Series on Thursday night.
Rays manager Kevin Cash made the announcement before a team workout on Tuesday.
Rookie Shane Baz will take the mound for Game 2 on Friday night. Depending on bullpen use in the opening two games, Cash said Drew Rasmussen is the "highly likely" Game 3 starter.
McClanahan, who last year became the first pitcher to make his major league debut in the postseason, went 10-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 25 starts this season.
Baz, a member of the silver-medal winning U.S. Olympic team, was 2-0 with 2.03 ERA in three starts after being called up from Triple-A Durham last month.
Rasmussen, acquired from Milwaukee in May, went 4-0 and had a 2.44 ERA in 20 games, including 10 starts for Tampa Bay.
The Rays fought furiously in 2020 for their first division title in over a decade, assuring themselves home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
In the end, it meant little more than last at-bats and a more comfortable clubhouse in San Diego.
The reigning AL champions are back as the league’s top seed, anticipating a few more travel miles and a lot more adrenaline. Plus, this time the fan noise will be real.
"It’s going to be a lot different from last year," said Kevin Kiermaier, a defensive whiz in the outfield. "And obviously for the better."
Baseball’s postseason is returning to its pre-pandemic format a year after COVID-19 confined most of last October’s action to empty stadiums in neutral sites. It’s a welcome change for players who pushed through last year’s playoffs supplying their own energy on a stage normally powered by the buzz created by live audiences.
The Associated Press contributed to this report