Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

In another Rays loss, Blake Snell shows promise

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OAKLAND, Calif.

You can say a lot of things, many NSFW, about the Rays this miserable season, but at least they've kept it relatively interesting.

After walkoff losses the previous two games, they were just slightly less dramatic in losing again Sunday afternoon to the A's, 3-2.

Waking from an afternoon slumber with a two-run eighth-inning homer by Logan Forsythe to tie, they were let down again by Erasmo Ramirez, who gave the A's the lead right back and the game, allowing a home run to Billy Butler.

"It's unfortunate," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "There's many ways to lose ball games. We like to be in tight ball games. You've got to pride yourself on finding a way to win those ball games. And Logan Forsythe did. He got a huge hit off a very good pitcher. And again we came up short.

"Believe me, we're all sick and tired of hearing we came up short. But that's kind of what it is right now."

Actually, it has been that much of the season.

Or particularly for the past six weeks, when the Rays went from a respectable 31-32, fighting to stay in the playoff chase until some key players returned from the disabled list, to a despicable 38-60, battling (in theory) to stay ahead of the Twins as the worst team in the American League with the Braves, and rock bottom, in their sights.

It has been a year of one thing after another, and it isn't going to add up to much. Just as the starting pitchers are finally pitching up to their billing, with a season-high six straight quality starts, the bullpen is failing them again.

At this point, it wouldn't seem there is much left to watch for, except for maybe whether Tampa Bay gets to 100 losses.

This week will be interesting, at least, to see whether the Rays will be all talk or actually have the gumption to make a big deal or two, whether it's trading 2015 All-Star pitcher Chris Archer for some big-time potential future impact players, Matt Moore or Jake Odorizzi for lesser but still valuable prospects, or some smaller pieces to at least add spare parts.

But after that you might as well start looking at the games differently. As the wins or, more relevantly, the losses matter less, it's time to start looking ahead.

And that's where Blake Snell comes in.

Despite the disappointing outcome Sunday, Snell again showed the promise that can make him the next great Rays pitcher. (Then, eventually, the next great one to get traded.)

Snell hasn't yet made even 10 starts in the majors, but pitching coach Jim Hickey has seen enough, especially with a four-pitch arsenal, to put him in a class with pre-surgery Matt Moore and former Ray David Price as dominating left-handers.

"Could he be a 20-game winner? Could he win a Cy Young Award?" Hickey said. "I think those are all within the realm of possibility, certainly."

What made Sunday's outing so impressive was that Snell didn't start well, giving up two first-inning runs on a string of four straight hits. But he finished strong, working into the seventh and allowing nothing else.

"I thought he was really good," Cash said. "That was as impressive as any start he's had this year, simply because it didn't look like he had his best stuff, especially early on in the game. He was cutting or pulling some pitches, he couldn't find the strike zone really.

"But he didn't panic. He stayed in there, hung through it. And he gave us a very good start."

Snell, 23, doesn't say much when the recorders and cameras are on, but he does seem to have a mature perspective on understanding both how to pitch and what he has to do to improve.

"I'm just focused on getting better and better and better and focusing on what I need to do, and really just trying to build off it as much as I can," he said. "And also I feel like I'm asking a lot of questions to the starting staff and they're really helping me as well."

On another day when the Rays don't seem to have anything to play for, Snell at least showed his promise. So at least they have that.

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

   
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