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Blake Snell comes up short as Rays lose again

The Rays dropped to 1-5 with the loss.
The Rays' Blake Snell hands the ball to manager Kevin Cash as he is removed from Wednesday's game against the Yankees in the fourth inning.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Rays' Blake Snell hands the ball to manager Kevin Cash as he is removed from Wednesday's game against the Yankees in the fourth inning. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Published Apr. 4, 2018|Updated Apr. 5, 2018

NEW YORK — There is much about the Rays' heavily discussed pitching plan that they have to figure out and adjust to as they go, such as which multi-inning relievers they can count on the most, and how frequently they can be used, as they navigate the beginning of the season with three starters and scheduled "bullpen days.''

But the foundation of that plan was built upon certain beams. Most integral to the structure is that the Rays receive extended outings from their top two starters.

The negative impact of getting only five innings Tuesday from Chris Archer was magnified considerably Wednesday, when Blake Snell couldn't get out of the fourth in an ugly 7-2 loss to the Yankees.

"Three and a third (innings) is not going to work with any rotation plan you have, it's as simple at that,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I know we're going to continue to talk about this (plan), and we can pick it apart all day long. But we've got to have successful pitching, efficient pitching, top to bottom. That's the bottom line.

"The guys that are penciled in to start ball games, they've got to be efficient and get as deep as possible into games to allow the bullpen to come in when they're supposed to pitch. (Wednesday) we pitched two guys (short relievers Chaz Roe and Jose Alvarado) where ideally they shouldn't have been in that ball game (because the Rays were trailing).''

Cash is right that pitching is going to remain a hot topic, especially as the Rays head to Boston with bullpen days planned for two of three games and Jake Faria, who lasted only four innings in his first start, between them.

Yonny Chirinos will make his first big-league start Thursday, and the Rays will decide soon who gets the ball Sunday, with Ryan Yarbrough, Andrew Kittredge and Austin Pruitt the options.

One week into the season, the meter is already running. Of the 52 innings the Rays have pitched, starters (including Kittredge in Game 3) have worked just 27⅓, which clearly isn't enough.

Snell created much of his own mess Wednesday after the teams sat through a 1½-hour rain delay at the start. After talking a good game all spring about putting his 2017 struggles and inconsistencies behind him, and throwing a good outing in his season debut Friday against Boston, Snell did little right against the Yankees.

Most notable: He got only 10 outs on 90 pitches, allowing four hits and walking three, all to lead off innings.

Most obvious problem: He gave up a pair of two-run homers — a massive 458-foot blast in the first to Giancarlo Stanton that turned the boos from Tuesday's five-strikeout performance to cheers (the 117.9 mph estimate by StatCast making it the hardest-hit ball in the majors this season), then a more pedestrian 369-foot moon shot to Gary Sanchez in the third.

Cash said the root of the problem was a lack of command.

"A lot of that,'' he said. "Too many three-ball counts. Too many 2-0 counts. Too many leadoff hitters of each inning getting on base. He just put himself into a bind right out of the gate.''

Snell said the biggest issue was what he called "nitpicking,'' which he defined as "trying to be too perfect against a good lineup.'' In detail, he said it's the result of "drifting" in his delivery rather than having a direct line to the plate, thus not being able to throw the ball where he wants it.

"Falling behind, it's frustrating,'' he said.

Showing more skill at dodging questions from New York writers about the explosiveness of the Yankees' lineup than he was at missing bats, Snell said — no surprise to those who followed his downs and ups last year — he is certain he can fix what's wrong.

All together now:

"I think the key is I'm aware of it, I know what I did, and I know how I'm going to prepare myself for this next start against the White Sox (Tuesday), and I'll be ready for it with no nitpicking.''

Off to a 1-5 record, the Rays need a lot to change, and getting more from Archer and Snell is a good place to start.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.