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Rays, on verge of clinching AL East, look to top Marlins again

Sat Sep 25 3:38am ET

The Miami Marlins will look to even their three-game series with the instate rival Tampa Bay Rays when the clubs meet in the middle contest of the set Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Behind bulk-innings hurler Ryan Yarbrough and two others, the Rays (95-59) spun a two-hit shutout in an 8-0 rout of the Marlins (64-89) in Friday's opener.

In improving to 50-29 at their domed home, the Rays reduced their magic number to clinch the American League East to two games thanks to the third-place New York Yankees' 8-3 victory over the second-place Boston Red Sox.

The Saturday game will feature a youthful pitching matchup of each side's top hurlers: Miami right-hander Sandy Alcantara and Tampa Bay southpaw Shane McClanahan.

While it has been a disappointing overall campaign for the Marlins, Alcantara (9-13, 3.05 ERA) leads the squad in victories and has been the most consistent pitcher on a staff that ranks fifth in the NL in ERA.

In his four years in Miami, Alcantara has posted an ERA under 4.00 each season, and his win total this year is a career high.

Alcantara, 26, has turned in his best work of the season this month, going 1-1 with a 1.84 ERA in four September starts.

In a road start against the New York Mets on Sept. 2, he allowed four runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings and took the loss in a 4-3 defeat, but he has rebounded in his past three efforts.

Over 23 innings covering a rematch against the Mets and outings against the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates, Alcantara has sparkled with a 1-0 mark and a 0.78 ERA, striking out 25 and walking two in 23 innings.

"That stuff is filthy," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after Alcantara's 14-strikeout showing against the Mets on Sept 8. "That's about as good as it gets right there. That's just special.

"Sandy started off as a guy that wasn't getting a lot of punchouts. Same stuff, but now he's learning the sequences and where to go with guys, just continuing to work to get better."

Alcantara holds a 1-1 record and a 3.38 ERA in three career starts against the Rays.

In the 2021 season opener against Tampa Bay on April 1, he fired six scoreless innings, giving up two hits and two walks. He whiffed seven in a no-decision.

His Saturday mound counterpart -- the equally hard-throwing McClanahan -- sits at 9-6 with a 3.51 ERA over 23 starts. The rookie has never faced Miami.

A win would leave McClanahan, 24, tied with Josh Fleming (10-6) for the team lead in victories.

Fleming last pitched on Aug. 29 in Baltimore and was demoted to Triple-A Durham after a poor relief outing (1 1/3 innings, four runs) against the Orioles.

Rookie shortstop Wander Franco returned to the Tampa Bay lineup Friday for the first time since injuring his right hamstring Sept. 10. He went 1-for-4 with a double and a walk, stretching his on-base streak to 40 games.

He is three games shy of matching Frank Robinson's record for the longest on-base streak by a player under 21, a mark set in 1956.

"Congrats to Wander," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It is nice to have him back -- plays with a lot of energy."

Randy Arozarena set a Tampa Bay franchise rookie record with his 90th run in the victory.

--Field Level Media

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