McClung shows grit in loss to Jays
Right-hander retires 15 straight batters after early struggles
TORONTO -- Young pitching is a precarious commodity.
Seth McClung personified that fact on Monday when he took the loss in the Devil Rays' 6-4 defeat to the Blue Jays in front of 22,563 at the Rogers Centre.
McClung, 25, has three quality pitches, including a curve, changeup and a fastball that approaches the high 90s every time he releases it. Offsetting the big redhead's good stuff is the inconsistency often associated with young pitchers. So despite taking a loss that snapped a four-game winning streak, the Rays could take some solace in the maturity that McClung showed after taking the Blue Jays' best shot.
Trailing, 1-0, Troy Glaus put the Jays up 2-1 in the first when McClung let a fastball get up in the strike zone, and the third baseman deposited the ball 418 feet into the stands in center field. Then, with the score tied at 2, Eric Hinske homered in the bottom of the second to put the Jays ahead, 3-2.
Hinske's home run -- which appeared to hit the top of the wall in left field before bouncing back onto the field -- prompted a conference by the umpires before ultimately being ruled a home run.
The umpire "said [the ball] hit something out beyond the fence and it came back in," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who went out to discuss the play with the men in blue. "My discussion was that it appeared like it hit the corner of the fence and came back in, which it does a lot on those padded walls -- and that was my point. But they did huddle and they tried to get it right. I appreciated the fact they did huddle."
McClung looked rattled by the ruling.
"Of course I'm going to think it's not a home run," McClung said.
McClung went back to work, and the Jays got to him again in the third, when Lyle Overbay doubled in one run and Gregg Zaun's sacrifice fly scored another to put the Jays up, 5-2.
McClung could have easily given up at this point, which is where the glimpse of maturity kicked in to combine with a healthy dose of competitiveness to provide some quality results -- albeit, results that were too late -- but the kind that lead one to think about a brighter tomorrow.
McClung retired 15 batters in a row before leaving the game after walking the leadoff batter in the eighth.
"When you get in a hole like that, you have to keep battling," McClung said. "I don't pack it up and give up. I pitch for these guys in here. This is the only thing that matters, this team. I was very disappointed that I let those guys get out ahead. We've been on a good roll lately, and I wanted to keep that going. So I'm beating myself up a lot about it."
The Rays offense always has a chance to come from behind if the other team is not scoring runs, only Monday just wasn't one of those days. The Rays banged out 12 hits to the Blue Jays' six -- including a three-hit performance from Julio Lugo and solo home runs by Russell Branyan and Josh Paul -- but the offense seemed like a whisper away from putting something big together all day long.
"We were just a sac fly or a hit away the whole game," said Jonny Gomes, who got robbed of extra bases in the first inning when Hinske made a diving catch of his drive to right. "We just won five of six. We're not going to let this one loss get us down. We're playing great, so we're going to keep it going. It's better than being a sac fly or a hit away that getting blown out."
Despite the loss, McClung's effort was appreciated in the Rays clubhouse.
"Our starting pitching's been doing real well lately," Gomes said. "[McClung] went out there, gave up a couple of runs, but he battled back. And he throws hard -- he's got three pitches he throws well. He's learning with every single start that he goes out there. He's still a little raw, but when he gets polished, he's going to be pretty unhittable."
Maddon looked at McClung's performance and assessed what the youngster should take from the outing.
"What he has to look at in a situation like that is what he did going into the start," Maddon said. "How he prepared for the start. He's also got to look at what he did to settle down to get deep into the game. He did settle down and he did start pitching well after a certain point. So I think those are the two things for him to learn from -- what did he do pregame, going into the game, and what did he do as the game was in progress?"
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.