Terrific turnaround: Snell wins his 19th of the season

by Gary Shelton on September 13, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell embraced by Willy Adames./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Maybe the key was in the early days, when Jim Hickey would tell him why he was being sent down and what he needed to work on.

Maybe it was when Chris Archer was with him in the weight room, talking about what kind of potential he had.

Maybe it was Kyle Snyder, his old pitching coach, came in and believed in him all over again.

Most of all, however, the maturation of Blake Snell was due to, well, Snell himself.

Snell has won 14 more games than a year ago./JEFFREY S. KING

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Choi, who homered, celebrates with Lowe, who tripled./JEFFREY S. KING

The difference from one year to another has been staggering. Once again on Wednesday, Snell was superb, shutting down the Cleveland Indians 3-1 on seven innings worth of one-hit baseball. It gave the Rays the series against the Indians.

Andrew Velazquez started at shortstop for Tampa Bay./JEFFREY S. KING

It was the 12th time in 28 starts that Snell has faced one of the major league's top five offenses. In those starts, he is 9-2 with a 1.97 ERA

And can anyone say "Cy Young?"

Snell is now third on ESPN's Cy Young predictor, behind Corey Kluber and A's reliever Blake Treinen.

"Most of all, it's himself (who led to the improvement)," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "He got really accountable really fast  when he got sent down and recognized that the talent he has wasn’t matching up to the performance. He pushed himself in between with his work."

Facing a dangerous Cleveland lineup, Snell allowed only a seventh-inning home run to Jose Ramirez. Cash did allow that Snell would have been able to start the eighth inning if he had a no-hitter going, but he wouldn't predict how long  he would continue.

Alvarado got his eighth save for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

"I can't lie," Cash said. "I was okay with the hit coming. He wasn’t  going to get to that 140 pitches as bad as everyone else would want him to. It wan’t going to happen. Kyle would have beaten me down. He would have made me go out there."

Snell has now won seven straight starts. He has a 1.24 ERA at home, and he leads the majors with 19 wins.

“He’s got the whole package," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona. "He’s in the other uniform, but my goodness he’s got velocity, breaking ball, changeup. Just seeing how much he’s improved from one year to the next is pretty special stuff.”

A year ago, Snell was 5-7 with an ERA over 4.00. His turnaround has been staggering.

"I'm driven," Snell said. "I'm focused. I know what to do. I'm focused on what I

Kiermaier makes a catch in center./JEFFREY S. KING

need to do."

As far as talk about the Cy Young, well, Snell will leave that to others. He more into team goals.

"Maybe at the end of the season (he'll think about winning 19), Snell said. "I know that we are winning and that’s the most important thing. That’s what I’m focused on, that’s what we are focused on. All the individual stuff I’ll look at later.

"I focus on, ‘we need to win. We are making a playoff push.’ We believe that as a team and that’s our focus. I’m able to focus on each pitch and know that it’s going to get us a good outcome.”

Snell got all the runs he would need in the first inning when Ji-Man Choi hit his third home run in five games, a two-run shot off of 16-game winner Carlos Carrasco.

“Every at-bat where you can hit a home run, you feel great," Choi said through an interpreter. "Especially tonight, helping contribute to a win for (Blake) Snell. He’s racing for the Cy Young Award, so I hope he gets it at the end of the season. I feel great in how I helped bring him the win.”

Choi had two of the Rays' seven hits.

The Rays added a third run in the fourth when Brandon Lowe tripled and came home on Kevin Kiermaier's sacrifice fly.

The Rays have today off, then play the Oakland A's Friday night. Diego Castillo will pitch for the Rays against Edwin Jackson at 7:10 p.m.

Mallex Smith gets his 33rd stolen base./JEFFREY S. KING



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