NEW YORK — Blake Snell had previous success against the Yankees, going 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in seven starts. He had been pitching remarkably well of late, winning four times over his previous eight starts while posting a 2.57 ERA. And he seemed focused and confident on finishing his sophomore season strong.
So what could go wrong Tuesday night?
Just a bad first inning then a worse start to the second, leading to an early exit and an ugly line in the box score, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks (two with the bases loaded) while getting only three outs in throwing 49 pitches, in the 6-1 loss that officially eliminated the Rays from the playoff chase.
Snell said the issue was mechanical, preventing him from throwing the fastball where he wanted to.
"It surprised me, but I should be able to adjust midgame and fix it and figure it out right away," he said. "So I was more upset with that."
And that after the Rays got off to a promising start of their own, loading the bases against equally unimpressive Yankees LHP Jordan Montgomery on two singles and a walk though getting only one run as C Wilson Ramos was robbed of a grand slam when CF Aaron Hicks made a spectacular leaping catch.
"He jumped and stole that homer," Ramos said. "But that's part of the game."
Snell walked two of the first three Yankees in a 24-pitch first but escaped with no runs.
The second was a bigger mess. It started with a bang, as Starlin Castro laced a long and loud homer to left. Next came three straight singles to load the bases and bring up the top of the order. He walked Hicks to force in one run, then imposing Aaron Judge, he of the 50 homers, in four pitches to make it 3-1. That was it for Snell, but a wild pitch by Chaz Roe allowed another of his runs to score.
Cobb out, Faria in for Thursday
With their elimination from the playoff race official, manager Kevin Cash said RHP Jake Faria will start Thursday in place of RHP Alex Cobb. Cash said Cobb, a free agent after the season, had "a really, really good year" and is "totally fine" to pitch but they didn't think it was in his "best interest," having worked 1791/3 innings in his first full season after Tommy John elbow surgery.
Good news from Puerto Rico
After a week of incessant worry and concern, LHP Xavier Cedeno and 3B coach Charlie Montoyo got word their families in Puerto Rico were safe and their homes withstood Hurricane Maria. Montoyo said a cousin drove 90 minutes to San Juan to get cell phone reception and let him know his parents were okay. She said gas was scarce so she didn't know when she could provide further updates. After a similar reassuring call from his sister, Cedeno said, "It's still a struggle with power, food and water, but we'll get through it."
History-making note of the day
RHP Chris Archer is the first pitcher in history to have three straight losing seasons with at least 200 strikeouts in each. Jersey Bakley (in 1884-84) and Jeff Samardzija (2013-14) did twice each.
Number of the day
Increase in 2018 salary for Ramos after making his 55th start, bumping him to $10.5 million in the second of the two-year deal he signed coming off major right knee surgery (and assuming he doesn't go back on the DL this final week). "We're just all thinking about winning," he said. "I know the incentives I had this season, but I was concentrating just on finishing the season strong, finishing healthy. That's more important for me. If I'm healthy I can make my money; if I'm not healthy I don't have the opportunity to do that."
. The Rays now say Thursday's instructional league game at the Trop will not be open to fans after originally announcing it would be. The Rays said there was an internal miscommunication.
. Home plate umpire Dan Bellino had a fan ejected in the eighth after he was repeatedly yelling to Yankees hitters where Ramos was set up for the pitches.
. Archer, who turned 29 on Tuesday, said he plans to make his final start Saturday, hoping to put a good finish on what has been a bad September.