McKay is everything he was promised to be against Rangers

by Gary Shelton on June 30, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Willy Adames hit his first homer at Tropicana./CHUCK MULLER

Sunday, 3 a.m.

How many others? And which positions?

For a long time now, we have heard their footsteps approaching, and we have heard the drums beat to signal the future. There are pitchers and catchers and outfielders and first basemen, and soon, they will finally arrive.

And if they are anything like Brendan McKay, you cannot wait for them to get here.

McKay was every ounce of being the chosen one Saturday. He kicked the door of the major leagues open with a staggering performance, throwing five innings of perfect baseball. He finished with his first win, giving up one hit and one walk over six innings, as the Rays took a 5-2 victory over the Rangers. McKay struck out only three, but he was in complete command from the outset.

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Cash was impressed with what he saw from McKay./CHUCK MULLER

“When we took him out of the game, that’s when I said ‘that was fun to watch,’ ” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. “You guys asked a lot of questions about the demeanor, the personality, all those things, which we are all learning on the fly in fairness. We haven’t been around him that much, but certainly (he) set a pretty high bar for himself. The way he carried himself, it was kind of unflappable. You would not have thought if you just turned on the TV that that was his first major league start. He picked us up in a big way. We’ve talked about how it’s been tough. He gave us every opportunity to get the offense going and then some. Really appreciative of his effort.”

McKay has been promissed at least one more start. But if this is how he is going to throw, however will the team justify sending him back down?

“Everything looks the same coming out of the delivery and then at the last second coming into the strike zone, it’s a different pitch,” Cash said. “He threw competitive pitches the entire game. We sometimes get carried away where you throw 100 pitches and 70 are competitive and 30 are not. Every pitch he made, it looked like there was intent behind it and it was either direct to make a pitch right there or set up another one, which to see that from a very young pitcher is impressive.”

The Rays had just seven hits in the game, but three of them were home runs. It was the fourth time in team history the Rays got home runs from the 7-8-9 hitters: Avi Garcia, Willy Adames and Travis d’Arnaud. It was Adames’ 10th homer of the year, but his first at Tropicana Field.

McKay said the day was everything he had hoped.

“To get off to a good start and get outs quickly and be effective and efficient and be able to put the team in a spot to get a win,” said McKay, who got a standing ovation when he left after the sixth inning.

“It gave me chills at the moment. It obviously shows that the crowd knows that something special is going on and they respect it. You’re doing something that not many people can do and you are doing it very well.”

Catcher d’Arnaud was impressed.

“The minute he showed up, he was locked in,” d’Arnaud said. “I’m sure it was the moment he was waiting for his whole life. He was as cool as a cucumber. He knew what he needed to do, he knew what kind of pitcher he was when I was talking to him about what he liked doing. That was a lot of fun.

“He was here before I was, locked in ready to go. Knew what he wanted to do, knew exactly when I was going over there to talk over signs. He was ready for everything, so it’s pretty cool to see a kid who is light years ahead of, baseball IQ-wise, was light years ahead of where I was and where I’m sure a lot of baseball players are.”

d’Arnaud said he had seen the look before.

“Command-wise, I would say (Jacob) deGrom. It was fun, he’s very smart too. It’s tough to say because he’s a lefty, but it was fun… Not only does he have 95 in his back pocket, but he’ll put it where he wants to and he’s so smart when he sees you cheating, he knows how to pitch to that. Not only does he know how to pitch to that, he knows how to execute too.”

The win was just the fourth for the Rays in 12 games.

Jose Alvarado pitched for the Rays for the first time since June 1. He faced four batters and gave up one earned run.

“He looked good,” Cash said. “The fastball obviously was up there. It will probably take him an outing or two to harness the command where he is capable of being, landing the breaking ball. I watched him warm up and he spiked a couple fastballs, he spiked a couple cutters. He’s going to be fine. The velocity looked good. The mechanics looked the same before he left.”

The Rays now turn to Blake Snell, who has been struggling, to face Jesse Chavez of the Rangers. Game time is 1:05 at Tropicana Field.

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