ST. PETERSBURG — In 2019, Rays rookie lefthander Shane McClanahan was inside Tropicana Field watching the ALDS as a fan. The 24-year-old says he knows how electric that atmosphere can be.
"We call it 'TropTober.' It’s a different breed," McClanahan said Wednesday. "It’s awesome. It’s so cool to… as a fan it was awesome to look around and see the entire stadium packed with yellow flags waving everywhere and it was awesome."
Thursday, McClanahan, a former USF standout, will start Game 1 against the Boston Red Sox. He says he's excited for the start, and he's excited for the spotlight.
"Even in big situations, it goes back to whether or not you’re prepared for it," the Cape Coral- native said. "Have you put in the effort? Have you put in the work? There’s a sense of calmness when you know you’ve done all you can do to prepare for that situation."
McClanahan made four postseason appearances in 2020, but this will be his first playoff start. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash thinks
"We threw him into the fire last year in the postseason when he had never pitched a regular-season game," Cash recalled. "At the time it didn't feel that great, but maybe that's helping him now."
Cash also said that he thinks McClanahan is more than ready for the challenge.
"I think over his 25 starts- whatever it is- he continues to learn things about himself and learn about the situation that’s been presented to him."
The Rays are 11-8 against Boston this season, and there are no secrets when division rivals meet in the postseason.
"You definitely learn a lot about a team the more you face them," McClanahan said. "At the end of the day, they learn more about you."
Cash seems to be well-schooled in the line-up they'll face in the first round.
"When you’re talking about [Xander] Boegarts, [Rafael] Devers, the year that Hunter Renfroe’s had. The addition of Kike Hernandez, and Scwharber being in. They have a young guy in Dalbec that kind of hovers in the back of their lineup that just has hit a bunch of home runs, so we’re going to have to pitch them very well."
First pitch of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Thursday night at 8:07 P.M. Games two will be at Tropicana Field on Friday (7:02 PM). Game three is set for Sunday in Boston (4:07 PM).
If necessary, game four will also be played in Boston on Monday (Time TBD). If the series goes the distance, the Rays will host the decisive game five on Wednesday (Time TBD).