Right in the middle of a wild-card race, the Rays are set to get their ace back. Lefty Shane McClanahan -- the AL starter in the 2022 MLB All-Star Game -- was a late scratch from his scheduled start on Aug. 30 due to a shoulder injury and has been out since. Wednesday, the Rays announced that McClanahan will be reinstated from the injured list in time to start Thursday's game against the Blue Jays.
That game is the finale of a big, five-game series between the two AL East foes. Entering Wednesday, the Rays are 79-62, which is a half-game back of the Blue Jays for the top AL wild card (the No. 4 seed). Whoever wins that spot will host a three-game series against the second wild-card team (the Mariners are currently tied with the Rays for that spot), with the third wild-card team traveling to the home of the AL Central winner for a three-game series.
There's an argument to be made that the No. 6 seed is the best of the three wild-card spots for teams hoping to make a run to the ALCS, but hosting the first-round series is strongly preferable to ending up in the five seed.
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McClanahan, 25, was one of the AL Cy Young frontrunners for a good portion of the season. Through 24 starts, he's 11-5 with a 2.20 ERA (165 ERA+), 0.86 WHIP and 182 strikeouts against 29 unintentional walks in 147 1/3 innings. A good finish will have him right in the mix for AL Cy Young along with the likes of Dylan Cease and an Justin Verlander.