ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Shane McClanahan pitched six sharp innings, Jose Siri and Wander Franco homered and the Tampa Bay Rays opened their silver anniversary season with a 4-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
“Hopefully it's just a start,” said McClanahan, an All-Star a year ago when the Rays made the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
With an opening day roster that only includes two newcomers to the team - pitchers Zach Eflin and Kevin Kelly - the Rays feel they have everything it takes to not only earn another postseason berth, but make a deep run.
Solid pitching, timely hitting and stellar defense - like Manuel Margot's diving catch in right field saved at least one run in the seventh inning - once again figure to be the key to the budget-minded club's success.
“You can't always win with home runs,” Franco said through a translator.
“That’s a game-changing play, but I’ve never really been in this building where haven’t played elite defense. It’s one of their calling cards. They make good plays. They finish plays, which is key," Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. "We needed to get something to happen to get back into the game. That would have been a critical one.”
Miguel Cabrera, beginning what he has said will be his last season, had one of Detroit’s six hits - a seventh-inning double - that moved him into a tie with Ichiro Suzuki for 23rd on the all-time hit list with 3,089.
McClanahan (1-0) gave up four hits, struck out six and walked one in his second opening day start.
Randy Arozarena and Luke Raley also drove in runs charged to Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1), who yielded Siri's homer in the third inning.
Franco, who sat out the last couple of games in spring training due to right quadriceps tightness, provided added insurance with a solo homer in the eighth.
“Any time you hit a ball like that,” the shortstop said of his homer that traveled an estimated 402 feet into the stands in in left-center field, “you feel healthy.”
For the Rays, who've made the playoffs the past four seasons, Thursday was the start of a celebration of the team's first 25 years.
They wore throwback Devil Rays jerseys the team donned during the first decade of its existence, hosting the same opponent Tampa Bay faced in the first-ever regular season game at Tropicana Field on March 31, 1998.
More than a decade after last throwing a pitch in a Tampa Bay uniform, former big leaguer James Shields was invited to return to “symbolically” retire from the franchise he helped transform from a perennial loser into a playoff contender.
Shields, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Rays before being traded to the Kansas City Royals in December 2012, also wore a throwback jersey, too, and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The 41-year-old was a draft pick of the Devil Rays in 2000 and was the leader of a pitching staff that was one of the keys to a surprising run to the World Series in 2008 - the year the franchise dropped the “Devil” from their nickname and made the playoffs for the first time.
The Rays routinely rank near the bottom of the major leagues in attendance, but again announced a sellout of 25,025 on opening day. Excluding 2020, when fans were not allowed into stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team has sold out 17 consecutive home openers.
LAST TIME AROUND
Cabrera is in his 21st season, 16th with the Tigers. Appearing in his 2,700th career game, he batted seventh and finished 1 for 4. Former Rays player Austin Meadows was 3 for 4 with a double for Detroit.
Friday is an off day. The three-game series resumes Saturday, with off-season acquisition Zach Eflin making his debut for the Rays and RHP Spencer Turnbull scheduled to start for the Tigers.
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