ST. PETERSBURG — The fun started early at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.
After Shane McClanahan struck out three of the four batters he faced in the top of the first inning, the Rays scored twice in their half for a 2-0 lead. McClanahan and the bullpen took care of the rest in a 5-0 win over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
In blanking the Red Sox over five innings, McClanahan allowed five hits, did not walk a batter and finished with the three strikeouts he had in the first.
“I felt like I could throw anything at any time for a strike,” he said. “I did not have any strikeouts after the first, but I was efficient and let them hit the ball.”
JT Chargois and David Robertson each threw an inning and J.P. Feyereisen went two innings to complete the shutout.
Nelson Cruz homered off the “C” ring with two out in the third and Randy Arozarena blasted one into the left field bleachers leading off the fifth to make it 4-0. For Arozarena, who walked twice, it was his 11th homer in 79 postseason at-bats with the Rays.
The star of the 2020 postseason also electrified the crowd of 27,419 when he stole home in the seventh inning. Lefty Josh Taylor was on the mound with a lefthanded batter, Brandon Lowe, at the plate.
“That steal of home was one of the coolest things I have seen on a baseball field,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “That’s (Randy’s) fearlessness and athleticism.”
According to Stats Inc., Arozarena became the first player in postseason history to homer and steal home in the same game.
“I noticed that the pitcher really wasn’t watching me and I saw the third baseman was pretty far away,” said Arozarena, who noted he had the green light. “I was excited it paid off.”
Thanks in part to shallow a fly to center off the bat of Xander Bogaerts that Kevin Kiermaier lost in the ceiling, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth. Feyereisen got the next two batters to squash the threat.
McClanahan made the first start of his postseason career after making four relief appearances last fall, including his MLB debut in the ALDS against the Yankees. This season he went 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA in three starts against the Red Sox, all in the second half.
“It was a good overall experience,” he said of the atmosphere. “The Trop was buzzing and we love that.”
Game 2 is Friday night at 7:02. Shane Baz will start for the Rays in what will be his fourth MLB appearance. Chris Sale takes the mound for Boston.
Tom Layberger is a contributing writer for forbes.com and The Tampa Free Press