Snell, once again, allows Rays to end a losing streak

by Gary Shelton on August 21, 2017 · 4 comments

in general

Snell has two consecutive four-game skids./JEFFREY S. KING

Snell has two consecutive four-game skids./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 3 a.m.

Do you call him “Ace” yet?

At least, do you recognize that he finally won the "deuce" of his season?

Blake Snell, who spent much of this season as the Rays' starter without a win, stopped his second consecutive four-game losing streak Sunday, throwing a shutout against a Seattle Mariners lineup that has worn out the rest of the Rays' staff this season. Snell has won the only two games of the last 12 for the Rays. Since Aug. 3, the Rays have gone 4-0 in games started by Snell and 1-12 in games started by any other pitcher.

Snell, twice sent down this season, has a 3:43 ERA in his last eight starts. His ERA in his first nine starts was 5.36.

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Kiermaier has been hot since his return./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier has been hot since his return./JEFFREY S. KING

"Obviously, the story of the game was Blake Snell’s performance,” said manager Kevin Cash. “Really impressed with the way he went up against that lineup with some very good hitters, veteran hitters. Just kept attacking. He used his fastball. The zone he was working in, both pitchers, was a very conservative zone, very consistent, but that did not deter Blake [Snell] from working outside of it. He came right in and attacked. He got just tremendous results throughout the game. We needed a win there is no doubt. The guys going into the off-day should feel good.”

Snell got his only runs on a leadoff homer by Kevin Kiermaier and a two-run homer by Adeiny Hechavarria. One of his key batters faced was when he struck out Nelson Cruz with one on in the seventh.

:If you’re not focused on what you’re doing to Nelson Cruz, he’s going to beat you even when you are,” Cash said. “He definitely will beat you when you’re not. The focus to me really showed up in the Toronto start and maybe it just carried over. There were some

Hechavarria hit his third home  run of the season./JEFFREY S. KING

Hechavarria hit his third homer and a triple for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

quirky plays that didn’t go in his favor. The big three-run homer didn’t go in his favor after an odd play. He never wavered from that. He wasn’t thinking about that. He went right on to the next pitch, the next hitter, the next out.

"If that carried over today, it definitely showed. Anytime you have the guy throwing the ball well and in a good rhythm, you start to see a little bit of quicker pace, more momentum. I think Blake [Snell] felt really good with his stuff. His stuff I said in Toronto...it was really good. Today, it probably matched it. Threw a couple of sliders that were good, but the curveball was kind of the weapon that came out today. The fastball changeup is generally always there. The curveball was a pitch he put guys away with and got some chase today with.

Cash has seen the improvement in Snell./JEFFREY S. KING

Cash has seen the improvement in Snell./JEFFREY S. KING

“I talked to Hick (pitching coach Jim Hickey) on the bench today and I was asking him. His velo (velocity) has even gotten up. I know he’s made a couple of mechanical adjustments. Some are very subtle adjustments, even centering up on the rubber, getting in line. Hick feels maybe that’s freed him up a little bit where the velo’s spiked. The biggest adjustment Blake has made is his intent with the fastball and driving the fastball in the zone.”

Snell's talent has always been acknowledged by the Rays, but he seemed to lose focus. He walked too many and fell behind too often. Now, that seems to have changed.

"I wish it would have come together a lot sooner, but I feel really good about where I’m at," Snell said. "I just have to keep working and getting better. I felt like me and Sucre had a little bit of a rhythm going. I felt like he knew what was working, he knew where he wanted the pitches to be and I felt like that helped me a lot. He’s so good back there and I feel it made me that much better.”

Longoria had a hit for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Longoria had a hit for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier, who missed 61 games with a hip injury this season, seems to be trying to make up for it. In his three games back, he's five-for-12 with a double, a homer and three runs scored.

"I just wanted to start the game off with a bang in any way I could,” Kiermaier said. “For me, I was just trying to be ready from the first pitch ... I get to 2-0 and I said ‘Here comes a heater, I’m going to get one to hit.’ And I was on time, put a barrel on it, backspin enough for it to go out and felt really good to hit a ball like that again. Been a while. But to get the team going right there from the first inning was great. Then, look back at it, that was a game-winning home run in the first. That’s all credit due to Blake and what he did to that team the whole game, shutting them down. Great win for us today, all around. This is one that can start creating momentum for us.

"I hate referring to the rough stretch we just had, but that’s the nature of the game sometimes. We can’t erase that. But moving forward, we make a run right here, we’re going to put that in the past. And we have to play our best baseball for the next 36 games. ... We’re going to have to stay focused and locked in from pitch one from here on out. ...We have a team that can be very dangerous.”

Hechavarria had a nice game for the Rays, too. He hit his third homer of the season, added a triple and made a diving catch and throw to end the game.

"Honestly, I was looking for a play to make after I hit the home run and I saw Longoria stop so I kept going and continued to make the play.”

Hechavarria said he is more comfortable at the plate after raising his hands.

Former Rays' player Taylor Motter, now with Seattle, praised Snell.

"I’ve seen Blake phenomenal and I’ve seen Blake bad. When he has the stuff like he did tonight, he’s a pretty good pitcher. He was throwing strikes. When I’ve seen him bad he hasn’t been able to throw strikes. He lives with his fastball and changeup and that 12-6 curveball is pretty good. Today he was able to get the fastball early for a strike, changeup and then curveball was a pretty good pitch today.”

The Rays have today off, then host Toronto on Tuesday. Chris Archer starts for the Rays against Chris Rowley in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. game.

Colome earned his 36th save of the season./JEFFREY S. KING

Colome earned his 36th save of the season./JEFFREY S. KING

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller August 21, 2017 at 10:17 am

The Rays have officially entered bizarro world. Snell is now the stopper and Hechavarria is hitting home runs. And the Rays are near the bottom looking up at all those teams ahead of them in the wild card race. This season has become really weird.

Reply

Gary Shelton August 21, 2017 at 10:57 pm

You could probably keep going with it. Dickerson has started to hit like Miller, who is starting to hit like a pitcher. And so forth.

Reply

Larry Beller August 22, 2017 at 7:41 am

That’s right. Morrison went from home run king to can’t hit a lick. The bullpen that was awful and is now very solid. Colome used to be high drama but has become predictably reliable. The shortstop was a weak spot defensively and now makes ESPN web gem plays. And the team that had so many flaws but was playing like a contender got stronger with some good additions but is losing at an alarming pace and has been reduced to an also ran. Crazy stuff.

Reply

Gary Shelton August 22, 2017 at 1:04 pm

And I went from a believer to someone who thinks Vinny Castilla is back.

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