Thursday, July 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell has a short night, Rays a long one in 5-1 loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS – Blake Snell waited two extra hours for the end of the rain Thursday to take the mound to start for the Rays.

And then he didn't stick around very long.

Snell was pulled after three innings and 75 pitches on a steamy night that saw the Rays latest five-game winning streak end with a 5-1 loss to the Twins.

"I was terrible today," Snell said. "It was a lot of me just making mental errors and not correcting them as fast and I should. They capitalized, they got three runs in three innings, and my pitch count was up due to a lack of command."

Snell said the lengthy delay wasn't the reason for his poor performance, that he killed time in the clubhouse and never started his actual warmups until he start time was definitive.

"I did everything as if the game was going to start at 7:10 (Minneapolis time), then they  said it was going  to start at 7:50, then 8:30 then 9:20. I continued to stay loose," he said.

He looked a bit out of sorts on the mound, fidgeting with the ball in his hand, asking for a new rosin bag.

The bigger issue was him stepping, or drifting as he calls it, more toward first before home in his delivery, and the inability to command his fastball.

"I felt a little bit off but not a lot," Snell said. "It was more so just my mentality in the game, not correcting the drifting, not correcting not throwing the fastball in the zone."

The rain had no impact on Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson, who allowed the Rays two singles in the first and then only three other hits and one run over his next seven innings, striking out nine total.

Snell, who the Rays and others feel was worthy of being named to the American League All-Star team, had been on an impressive roll, 4-0, 0.63 in his previous  four starts, and 8-1, 1.27 over 10.

Manager Kevin Cash said it was just one of those nights.

"He just could never get his fastball going, a lot of arm side misses, a lot up in the zone," he said. "You've got to give credit to the Twins lineup. They had a pretty good approach. They didn't swing. They didn't expand. They put him in some challenging counts. And for whatever reason he just wasn't able to make the pitches we've seen him make so many times this year."

Twins outfielder Robbie Grossman said that was by design.

"That's how you beat good pitchers," he said. "That guy should never get hit with the stuff he has. He's right up there with (Boston's) Chris Sale with his stuff and you have to make him throw a lot of pitches and get him out as soon as you can and see someone else."

Cash said there absolutely nothing wrong with Snell and that he pulled him simply because he threw so many pitches in such a short outing.

"He could kept going but I think 75 pitches through three innings, that's  probably enough given the workload that he's had here recently," Cash said. "He was fine (with the decision). He's frustrated with himself a little bit that he wasn't able to correct whatever he was doing."

Snell said he didn't necessarily agree but understood the move. "I had nothing to say," he said. "It just wasn't a good start."

It was clear Snell was off his game from the start.

After getting the first out, he got a bad break on an infield single, but then walked two, with a wild pitch in between, to load the bases. He got out of it, but it was taxing as he needed 30 pitches to get through it.

A walk to lead off the second, a single and a double play grounder, by ex-Ray and Seminole High product Bobby Wilson, got the Twins a run as Snell threw 20 pitches.

And the third wasn't any better. Snell allowed a one-out single then threw another wild pitch and gave up back-to-back run scoring doubles to make it 3-0. By the time he got the third out, he'd thrown 25 pitches, and 75 for the
night, which was over.

Snell threw 43 of his 75 pitches for strikes, walking three (and throwing two wild pitches) while striking out only two in dropping to 12-5, 2.27. The three innings made for his shortest outing of the season, though not by much as he went 3 1/3 twice.

Chih-Wei Hu, the former Twins prospect acquired in a July 31, 2015, trade, took over and worked the final five innings for the Rays, whose bullpen was beat up from back-to-back heavy days.

Hu, called up Thursday to take the roster spot opened by Willy Adames' demotion, allowed a two-run homer to Eddie Rosario in the eighth. "He did a nice job and picked us up in a big way," Cash said.

The Rays got the first two on and had the bases loaded  with one out in the  ninth but former closer Fernando Rodney sealed the deal for the Twins.

The Rays dropped to 48-45, with a Friday night date against ex-mate Jake Odorizzi.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays

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