Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell dominates as Rays rout Rockies

DENVER — Rays manager Kevin Cash may not have to be concerned much longer about the hype surrounding rookie lefty Blake Snell being unfair.

That's because Tuesday night, Snell showed that he can live up to it — and more.

Snell gave the Rays a dazzling start in a much needed 10-1 victory over the Rockies, allowing only one hit over six sterling innings and striking out nine,in a game that was delayed two-plus hours at the start due to rain and ended just after 1:30 a.m. Tampa Bay time.

"We've been extremely positive with everything Blake has done since he's been here,'' Cash said. "This justifies it, this type of outing. It's probably unfair for anybody to expect a ton out of a guy that's making his debut and his first five or six starts. So I think he's done a tremendous job of holding his own, competing, giving us chances to win.

"Today he kind of put it together where we saw the elite pitcher that we've heard about for quite some time.''

Snell allowed only a single to Charlie Blackmon leading off the fourth, and three walks, in his 96-pitch outing. In the process, he became just the second visiting rookie in Coors Field history to throw six or more scoreless innings and allow no more than one hit, joining San Diego's Oliver Perez, in 2002.

"He just looked like himself,'' said catcher Luke Maile. "He looked the type of pitcher that I know everybody expects him to be. His stuff was excellent.''

The victory was just the Rays' fifth in their past 30 games, and obviously much welcomed as they improved to 36-57. They also snapped an 11-game road losing streak, which dated to their last win in gray pants on June 8 in Arizona and covered 9,108 air miles.

While Snell was the headline, Evan Longoria provided the highlight, delivering a blast of a 22nd homer, a massive shot to left that was estimated at 462 feet.

"I hit it about as good as I can hit it,'' Longoria said. "I don't really care how far they go as long as they get out. But it is fun to kind of jog right out of the box and not have to worry about sprinting and if it's going to get over the fence.''

After a 2:01 delay due to late-afternoon rain, the Rays got a run in the first, which was an accomplishment given the issues they had Monday in failing in three innings to get a runner home from third with less than two out. Tuesday, Logan Forsythe led off with a double to snap an 0-for-15, went to third on a groundout and scored when Longoria singled through a shift-vacated hole to the right of second base.

But the Rays really got rolling in the third, taking control of the game by scoring five runs — their most in a frame since June 27.

There were several key hits, but the big blow undoubtedly was the massive two-run homer by Longoria, which landed on the concourse beyond the leftfield seats and one-hopped the brick frozen yogurt stand to bounce out of the stadium. Two days after Longoria hit a 441-foot shot at the Trop off the D-ring catwalk, he did this one about 20 feet better.

"That was a bomb in any park,'' Cash said. "We were talking about where that would have gone in our park, if it hits the tarp or not, but we'd probably never know because it would hit something in the rafters.''

The Rays got to seven runs by adding one in the fourth, helped with a walk by Snell — who enjoyed the experience of hitting in a game for the first time since high school in 2011, also striking out bunting and grounding out to third — and added three in the ninth to get to double digits for the first time since June 27, a 13-7 win over Boston.

"It seemed like everybody kind of played a part in the offense,'' Cash said.

Matt Andriese, who the Rays want to keep stretched out should a trade create an opening in their rotation, worked the final three innings, losing the shutout by allowing a homer to Trevor Story with one out in the ninth.

But the night was about Snell, who improved to 2-4 and lowered his ERA to 3.11.

One key, in what Cash considered the best of his seven starts, was the quality of the slider and his changeup, which Snell used more frequently, and kept down, in staying away from his curveball, figuring it wouldn't break enough in the altitude to be as effective.

"I was really happy with the game plan I wanted to execute,'' Snell said. "I definitely feel good about tonight but it's definitely something where I have to keep striving to get better and better.''

Another key was his ability to locate his high-octane fastball, working down in the count early and then elevating to get strikeouts.

Bottom line, he looked like a young pitcher worthy of the grand expectations.

"I don't feel like there's too much hype, and I don't really listen to it anyway to where it could bother me,'' Snell said. "I know what I need to do. I know what I need to do to be the best I can be. That's all I really focus on.''

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

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