Snell sharp as Rays opening playoffs with win

by Gary Shelton on September 30, 2020

in general

Snell was strong in his playoff start ./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Hey, didn't you used to be Blake Snell?

Yeah, sure you did. I'd recognize you anywhere. The big fastball. The deadly curve. The nasty slider. Why, back in 2018, when you won the Cy Young Award, you were something fierce.

Well, hey, Blake. Welcome back.

Snell was terrific in the opening game of the American League playoff series against Toronto Tuesday, going 5 2/3 innings of one-hit, shutout baseball to lead the Rays to a 3-1 victory over the Jays.

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In short, it was a game that was much like the Rays have been in this shortened (60 games) season. The recipe was the same: great pitching, sharp defense and just enough offense to win another close game. The Rays managed only four hits -- one of them a two-run homer by Manuel Margot, only his second home run of the season.

But with the Rays' pitching, that was plenty of offense. Snell took a no-hitter into the sixth, and the bullpen trio of Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks allowed only one run in the game.

"I’m getting into a groove," said Snell, who had won only 10 times since his Cy Young season. "It usually takes me a while to get going anyway. Overall, I'd say I felt good, but I still have things to work on. I pitched good enough to get the win, but there were a couple of walks in there. Things I could do better. I have to find a way to get better.”

Still, Snell was as sharp as he has been in a while. When he left the game, manager Kevin Cash approached him. "Was that the best you've felt?" Cash asked him.

"I was impressed; it was his mindset he credited to getting through that game and being so good," Cash said.

The post-season usually isn't a time for rarities, but it was Manuel's Margot's second home and Fairbanks' first save. Fairbanks is the 13th Ray to have a save this season.

"If you're going to be in a tight game, you have to find a way to play clean baseball," Cash said. "Tonight was a pretty good representation of the Tampa Bay Rays. Our players. How we go about winning games, tight games. We’ve found success being really good in tight games."

Margot was hitting just .091 early in the season but has won a starting position with the Rays. Still, a home run might have been a lot for the Rays to ask of him.

"I was just trying to take advantage of a mistake," Margot said. "I was lucky to connect on it."

The Rays can close out the Blue Jays today at Tropicana Field. The teams play at 4 p.m., with the Rays sending Tyler Glasnow against Hyun Jin Ryu.

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