ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Brendan McKay made an amazing first impression.
"It was fun to watch,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Certainly set a pretty high bar for himself. Just the way he carried himself, it was kind of unflappable.''
McKay (1-0), a two-way prospect taken fourth overall in the 2017 draft, didn't allow a baserunner until Danny Santana flared an opposite-field single to right with one out in the sixth. The left-hander allowed one hit, a walk and struck out three in six innings.
McKay said the best part of the day was "just getting to play baseball.''
"You're living a dream and doing something that not many people get to do,'' McKay said. "To fulfill your lifelong dream of playing in the major leagues, it's awesome.''
A couple of dozen family members and friends, including his parents, were among the announced crowd of 16,655.
"He's got good stuff and he can execute,'' Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "He looked like a pretty calm guy.''
"It gave you chills at the moment,'' McKay said.
Avisail Garcia homered for the Rays, who won for the fourth time in 12 games.
Texas had a season-high six-game winning streak snapped.
Jose Alvarado, who rejoined the Rays on Friday after being gone from the team since June 2 to be with his ailing mother, was one of three relievers who completed a five-hitter. He allowed one run and one hit in the ninth.
Sampson allowed three runs and five hits in six innings.
McKay went a combined 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA (66⅔ innings, nine earned runs) in 13 games between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.
The 23-year-old made a nifty defensive play in the second when he caught Joey Gallo's foul ball near third base with the Rays having four defenders in the outfield and three infielders on the first-base side of second.
"I don't know if it makes any difference, but maybe all our pitchers should be two-way players,'' a smiling McKay said.
McKay had also played first base before being limited to DH this season.
McKay is scheduled to pitch again Friday night against the American League East-leading New York Yankees, who have a seven-game lead over the Rays.
McKay's outing tied Ken Cloude (Seattle, 1997) and Wayne Simpson (Cincinnati, 1970) for the second-longest perfect game bid in a debut during the expansion era, starting in 1961. The record of 6⅔ innings was set by Pittsburgh's Nick Kingham on April 29, 2018.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said AL All-Star DH Hunter Pence, out since June 17 due to a strained right groin, will play for Double-A Frisco on Monday and probably Tuesday before returning. "I promised him if he hit two homers in Frisco on Monday, I might activate him Tuesday,'' a smiling Woodward said. "Knowing him, he'll do it.'' Barring any setbacks, Pence will be ready to play in the All-Star Game.
Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor (left hamstring cramp) didn't play but might start Sunday.
Rays LHP Blake Snell (4-7) and Rangers RHP Jesse Chavez (3-2) are Sunday's starters. Snell, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, has an 11.94 ERA (17⅓ innings, 23 earned runs) over his past five starts.
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