Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rookie Snell takes step back as Rays rocked by Blue Jays

TORONTO — It wasn't all Blake Snell's fault.

If Steven Souza Jr. hadn't inexplicably botched the foul fly ball that allowed the Blue Jays to extend the first inning and score three runs, the game might have unfolded differently.

Same if the Rays batters had been able to do more than rap four meager hits against Toronto starter J.A. Happ, who cruised through six innings for his majors-leading 16th win.

But the rookie left-hander Snell was pretty bad, the primary culprit in an ugly 7-0 loss Wednesday that knocked the Rays back to 46-67.

After 10 increasingly impressive starts, Snell turned in a stinker.

"That probably, that is the first time we've really seen him struggle," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "There were a lot of things that took place we hadn't seen."

Snell failed to get through the second inning while throwing 68 pitches.

He allowed five runs, including a three-run homer by Troy Tulowitzki, though only two were earned.

He walked four, matching his season high, including his last three to force in a run.

He balked.

And he blanked out, allowing B.J. now Melvin Upton to swipe third uncontested.

Cash suggested that the charged environment, with 45,501 Rogers Centre fans in full roar and a touted opposing team, might have contributed to Snell being overamped.

"He had the stuff going, it was lack of command and location with his pitches," Cash said. "I think this atmosphere could have brought out a little extra energy that maybe he hasn't felt, and maybe trying to control himself might have been a little bit difficult."

Snell wasn't as sure that was the cause, saying it seemed to him more a matter of not being aggressive enough. "Maybe I just wasn't attacking the zone like I should," he said. "I was giving them too much credit."

He also suggested that umpire Clint Fagan's strike zone was a little tight, as well as his balk call (for a head nod) incorrect. Of more concern, Snell hinted that he might have tipped the slider Tulowitzki launched.

While it's impossible to say how the first inning would have gone, it certainly would have been different if Souza, continuing to turn his job into an adventure, had caught Josh Donaldson's foul ball in right with one on.

Souza saw it, tracked it, ran to the right spot to get under it … and watched it hit off his glove. Donaldson took advantage of his new life with a single, and Snell then got the next two out, but Tulowitzki hit the homer.

Souza didn't have much of an excuse.

"I dropped it," he said. "I had to run a long way, but the ball's got to be caught. Sometimes when you run a little too hard the ball bounces when your head starts moving. Bottom line, it's a routine play. It's a minor-league play that needs to be made."

What Snell and Cash totally agreed on is that he will turn the bad night into a good lesson.

"I'm definitely going to learn from it, and I'm definitely going to get better," Snell said. "You're going to have those games. It's something that's going to make me a lot better. … I'm already really excited for my next outing."

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