Rays hope Thursday is a sign of things to come.
Baseball is a funny game. It’s often the most unlikely of heroes that wins the game. And other times it’s the all-star that struggles down-the-stretch.
Blake Snell took the ball for Tampa Bay tonight knowing that his offense had scored just four runs in their last five games. He was also well aware that his teammates were 0-for-28 with runners in scoring position during that stretch.
No stranger to struggles, Snell looked to continue his run of five consecutive starts allowing three-runs-or-less. His last home start (7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) was his longest outing so far this season.
Snell Works into Seventh
The case with last night’s starting pitcher, Snell also struggles to work deep into games. In his last start (Thursday at HOU), Snell matched a season-low by going just four innings. In fact, Snell has gone six-or-more innings only three times this season. After the season-high seven innings he pitched on July 24, the start in Houston is viewed as a step backward.
On Thursday, he took a step forward.
Needing just 76 pitches to get through five innings, Snell provided the length needed to help preserve the bullpen (4 RP used on Wednesday), and put his club in position to win. His 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 K performance didn’t go unnoticed.
“We had a chance to win the game simply because of Blake Snell’s performance,” Cash told us after the game.
After allowing a lead-off double to Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, which ultimately led to a run, the left-hander settled in quite nicely. He retired the next seven batters he faced. Another lead-off double snapped Snell’s run, this time off the bat of Jason Kipnis.
The Indians would not score in the inning as former Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer was called out on strikes to end the threat. Snell outlasted his counterpart from Cleveland – Danny Salazar was pulled after 5.1 innings pitched.
Hitless No More
The Rays entered the game in an 0-for-28 skid with RISP. Salazar gave the Rays three opportunities to snap the skid before, ultimately, Logan Morrison did on the fourth try.
For Morrison, it was his first hit in his last 12 at-bats. Entering the game he was batting just .153 with runners on second or third.
The only player on the roster that has a lower batting average with runners in scoring position – Trevor Plouffe (.111). Since joining the Rays, Plouffe has a slash line of .185/.264/.262
Jesus Sucre has the Rays’ highest batting average with runners in scoring position at .333. He saw two such attempts tonight but was unsuccessful in his first and was hit by a Nick Goody fastball in his second opportunity.
Morrison and Dickerson End Droughts
After Morrison ended his hit-less streak in the fifth inning, giving Tampa Bay their first run, all-star Corey Dickerson joined the club. With Adeiny Hechavarria on third and Sucre on first, Dickerson took the first pitch he saw from Goody and deposited it over the centerfield fence. The eighth-inning home run set the stage for Alex Colome to earn his AL-leading 34th save of the season.
Entering the at-bat, Dickerson was hitless in his last 21 attempts. That, as well as the outcome of the game, changed with one swing.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 11, 2017
Cash in Trouble for Late-Game Decision
Manager Kevin Cash admitted he will probably get in trouble for the decision he made in the eighth inning. With one out, Hechavarria lined a single to left field. The shortstop then stole second base, advancing to third on a throwing error by Indians catcher Yan Gomes.
Mallex Smith entered the game, like many, in the midst of a double-digit hitless drought. The Rays centerfielder was without a hit in his last 13 at-bats. In an effort to capitalize on the situation, Cash called for Smith to bunt. After a failed attempt, and with two strikes, the Rays skipper called for the bunt again.
Not only were both attempts unsuccessful, Smith did not look comfortable in doing so. His first attempt was popped in the air, bouncing out of the glove of a diving Giovanny Urshela, outside of third base. The second offering was also popped in the air, this time caroming off the glove of first baseman Carlos Santana.
The play will be forgotten by many thanks to Dickerson’s home run, just one batter later. It will not be forgotten by Cash, who openly admitted that he will probably be receiving plenty of criticism regarding his thought process in the inning.
“I’m sure I’ll be told by my bosses that it was stupid,” Cash said after the game. “It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been called stupid.”
Winning cures all. And it’s a good sign for this team to have a manager joking about late-game decisions. Of course, that doesn’t happen when you lose.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Rays tomorrow night as Carlos Carrasco (10-5; 4.06) takes the mound. Rookie Jacob Faria (5-2; 2.81) looks to give the Rays consecutive wins for the first time in a week.