Snell must elevate game over Dodgers

by Gary Shelton on October 27, 2020

in general

Snell pitches his biggest game tonight ./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

For all of his pitches, for all of his awards, this question remains about Blake Snell.

Does he have the right stuff?

Oh, he has the pitches. His fastball pops, and his slider snaps, and his curveball crackles. But for the Rays to win the biggest game of their history tonight, Snell has to be more than a breakfast cereal. He has to be Big Game Blake.

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Oh, there are times -- and sometimes, they last for several innings -- when Snell is impressive. He can embarrass hitters, and he can pile up strikeouts. But there is more to being a big-game pitcher than an arsenal of pitches. There has to be a bit of the bulldog to a pitcher. There has to be a will, a determination to rise to the moment and not give in to the fiercest of hitters.

Otherwise, you will remember. The way you think of Snell will be in large part based on his performance tonight.

Make no mistake. The Dodgers --- Snell's opponent tonight -- have the hitters. They're a team of Arozarena's, a slugging crew that has mad millions off of the muscle in their bats. There are a lot of batters that can get an opposing pitcher of the Dodgers. So be aware: What you are asking of Snell is not an easy thing.

But who said it was going to be easy?

"I'm pretty excited," Snell said. "It's going to be a game that we have to win. I'm excited that I'm in a position that I can pitch Game Six."

Snell is 2-2 with a 3.33 ERA in this postseason. He still has not reached the sixth inning in the regular season or the post-season.

"We know how good the Dodgers are, and that’s okay, because we know how good we are," Snell said.

For Snell, the challenges are these: Keep away from walks. Avoid the home run ball. And hope your team gets an early lead to protect the bullpen.

"It's tough because they're going to make adjustments," Snell said. "They've seen me, so they're got to make adjustments to what they saw. I'm going to make adjustments to what I saw. I'm going to have my game plan, they're going to have their game plan."

Snell has won 42 games in his career -- half of them as he won the Cy Young Award in 2018. His lifetime ERA is 3.24. But aside from his one great season, there seems to be something lacking when he takes the mound. He is a good pitcher with great stuff, but he is plagued by walks and home run balls, and it has kept his production from matching his potential. In some ways, he is a slightly more accomplished Chris Archer. Tonight, the Rays need him to be more like James Shields.

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