After his team finished a seven-game road trip with a 4-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash said he was looking forward to opening a six-game homestand with a meeting against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.
And with the Rayssporting a 26-6 home record, who can blame him?
"We're all ready to get home," Cash said. "For a seven-game trip, it felt like we've been here a long time."
After losing two of three to the Cubs in Chicago, the Rays bounced back to take three of four from the Red Sox and improve their major-league-leading record to 43-19.
Shane McClanahan became the first pitcher to win nine games this season and also lowered his ERA to an American League-best 2.02, allowing one run on five hits over six innings on Monday. He walked two, both in the first inning, and struck out five.
"He's really good," Cash said when asked about McClanahan overcoming his wild start. "I think that's the best way to answer it. He kind of got irritated with himself and took it to another gear and kind of locked it in."
Perhaps the only negative for the Rays on Monday was that they were forced to place second baseman Brandon Lowe on the 10-day injured list.
Lowe, an AL All-Star in 2019, said he felt some pain in his back while sliding into third base on Saturday. The pain got worse as the game went on, and his back locked up on him on Sunday morning.
Lowe said the injury is different from the back ailment that kept him out for much of last season.
"It's frustrating because it's another thing that has to do with the back," Lowe said. "And to be frank, I'm tired of having to worry about it."
Lowe is expected to undergo another exam on Tuesday.
Rays right-hander Zach Eflin (7-1, 3.30 ERA) will start the series opener against Minnesota, opposed by rookie right-hander Louie Varland (3-1, 3.51).
Eflin, who has three wins and a no-decision in his past four starts, has faced the Twins once in his career. That came April 7, 2019, as a member of the Phillies when he allowed one run on six hits over seven innings in a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia.
Varland, who began the season at Triple-A Saint Paul, has a 2.67 ERA over his past five starts for Minnesota. He turned in his best performance of the season in his most recent outing, when he allowed four hits over seven scoreless innings against the Houston Astros on Wednesday. He walked one and struck out five.
"He was believing in his stuff (Wednesday) and executing with his stuff ... at a really high level," Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Varland has never faced Tampa Bay.
The Twins had Monday off, and Baldelli hopes the day of rest will help him get two of his injured stars back in the lineup. Designated hitter Byron Buxton hasn't played since Thursday after taking a fastball to the ribs, while shortstop Carlos Correa left that same game with a flare-up of plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"I think they're both in a much better spot than they were a couple of days ago," Baldelli said. "I'd like to say, 'Yes, I expect them both to be in the lineup.' I think they will be, but I'm not positive about that yet."
--Field Level Media