ST. PETERSBURG — Fueled by a sharper and harder slider, Rays rookie LHP Blake Snell turned in a much improved outing Thursday, working five solid innings in a 2-0 win over the Yankees.
It was just the second time in his past six starts that Snell completed five innings, and the second in 18 big-league starts he didn't allow a run.
"It definitely feels good, but at the same time I've got to keep getting better,'' Snell said. "I've got to keep seeing what I'm doing and keep pushing for quicker at-bats, (getting) deeper into the game. There's so much that I need to grab on to. I'm definitely happy about it, but also at the same time I'm looking forward to taking the good and the bad and growing.''
Snell (6-8, 3.65) got off to a shaky start, allowing back-to-back singles. But he struck out sizzling Gary Sanchez and escaped the first, was rewarded when the Rays (65-87) rapped three singles to give him a lead, and rode the slider he tweaked last week.
LF Corey Dickerson extended the lead to 2-0 in the sixth with a homer, his fourth in his past 11 games and 23rd overall.
Snell was on a short leash because the Rays wanted to use RHP Chase Whitley, who looked sharp yet again working 22/3 innings, impressing manager Kevin Cash with the command of his offspeed pitches. "You just don't see that with guys coming back from that kind of extensive rehab,'' Cash said.
RHP Alex Colome got the final four outs for his 35th save, allowing a single to open the ninth and retiring Jacoby Ellsbury with Sanchez on deck. "I don't worry about that,'' Colome said. "If Sanchez comes in to hit, I throw like to the other hitters: fastball for a strike. If he can hit, he has to hit. I'm (not) afraid of him.''
Q-BALL: Talk about a wake-up call. INF Juniel Querecuto (care-uh-KOO-to) was sleeping comfortably at home in Venezuela Tuesday when his father woke him up at 8:30 a.m. and told him he was called up by the Rays.
After ending his season at Double-A Montgomery, Querecuto went home to rest for the start of winter ball and had his two bottom wisdom teeth removed — under doctor's orders not to do any physical activity until Saturday — when the stitches were removed.
"But in this situation?" Querecuto said. "Sorry, doctor, I have to play."
Cash said the Rays were excited to have him, even more so after seeing his beaming smile.
"We weren't anticipating getting this banged up with a month to play, but knowing we have a guy in here who's versatile, who can play anywhere in the infield, helps quite a bit," Cash said. "And we'll use the opportunity to give him an opportunity to go out there and play."
A little more than two days after getting out of bed, Querecuto, 24, made his major-league debut, playing third base (with Evan Longoria getting a DH day) and batting seventh against his favorite team growing up, though grounding out and striking out twice in his three at-bats.
"I had a lot of fun," Querecuto said in Spanish, "even though things didn't turn out the way I had hoped."
X OUT: LHP Xavier Cedeño is the latest Ray to have his season end early, officially shut down due to neck stiffness that had idled him since Aug. 29. "I don't know how much sense it makes for a guy who's battling an injury to just to get him out there for one or two more appearances," Cash said.
MISCELLANY: CF Kevin Kiermaier's streak of consecutive stolen bases ended at 18 when he was called out, on a replay challenge, in the third. … RHP Chris Archer is excited to have his parents in town for tonight's game: "It's always fun to perform in front of them because they've helped me out so much along the way.''