McClanahan enjoys the battle, and the defense

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ST. PETERSBURG — Shane McClanahan has enjoyed performances this season where he was dominant. Sometimes, the Rays left-hander is practically unhittable.

Sunday’s 4-2 victory against the Yankees was not one of those games.

McClanahan (5-2), who worked six innings (seven hits, no walks, seven strikeouts), escaped from several jams and got the win.

“It’s always nice to cruise,’’ McClanahan said. “But it’s more satisfying and sweet when you have to battle your way through it. It was a battle. It was one of those games you love to be a part of.’’

McClanahan, who has given up two runs in his past four starts (spanning 26 innings) to lower his ERA from 3.06 to 2.01, has won four consecutive decisions. His last loss: April 30.

But in the second, he stranded runners on the corners. He yielded back-to-back hits to lead off the third and sixth innings.

And he escaped each time.

“There were a lot of great plays made behind me,’’ McClanahan said.

“I think it’s part of Shane’s maturation,’’ catcher Mike Zunino said. “It’s like when Shane sees that (runners on base), he hits another gear.’’

Manager Kevin Cash was impressed.

“It felt like there was a ton of traffic (on the bases),’’ Cash said. “But he stayed at it and stayed kind of within himself, didn’t try to do too much and he just made pitches. Whee he needed strikeouts, he got the big strikeouts. When he needed ground balls, he got big ground balls.’’

Lucky 7

The Rays got much-needed insurance runs in the seventh inning when Wander Franco and Ji-Man Choi worked leadoff walks off Yankees starter Luis Severino. After a strikeout of Manuel Margot, Severino was lifted for reliever Ron Marinaccio, who walked Taylor Walls, then pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez to force in a run. On the next pitch, Marinaccio plunked Mike Zunino in the back, forcing in another run and 4-2 lead.

“I know we didn’t knock the cover off the baseball, but walks can be big,’’ Cash said. “There’s got to be a lot of patience in there. I was really impressed with Ramirez’s at-bat. You’re in there to do a job, get a big hit or drive a ball into the outfield, but he didn’t help their pitcher and ended up drawing a walk.’’

Let the numbers speak

Since 2020, the Rays are 21-12 against the Yankees, outscoring them by 58 runs (154-96) and out-homering them by 12 (45-33).

Walls, who said Thursday that the Yankees were “very beatable,’’ said he “meant no shade’' by the comment. He said Rays-Yankees is a hotly contested rivalry and there’s tension in nearly every game.

“You play an in-division team and there’s always going to be a little tension and some nerves,’’ Walls said. “They have a good team, and it’s going to be great competition the rest of the way with them.’’

Miscellany

McClanahan on what he said to Walls in the dugout after his brilliant eighth-inning defensive play: “I have to make this TV appropriate. I said, ‘You’re a bad man!’ ‘’ … It was the first back-to-back regular-season sellout crowds at Tropicana Field since May 11-12, 2019 (also against the Yankees). … Manuel Margot went 0-for-3 to snap his 15-game hitting streak. The club record is 19 by Jason Bartlett in 2009. … Since May 11, the Rays have a majors-bet 2.16 ERA in 16 games, and their starters lead the majors with a 1.71 ERA over that stretch. … The Rays are 21-3 when scoring four runs (or more). … It was the first time in franchise history that the Rays won a game without the benefit of a single, double or triple. Their only two hits Sunday were solo home runs.

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