20 things about Mr. 20 Blake Snell, including, yes, blocking his mom on his phone

Rays ace Blake Snell shares a laugh in the dugout during a game earlier this year at the Trop. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
Rays ace Blake Snell shares a laugh in the dugout during a game earlier this year at the Trop. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published September 22 2018

TORONTO — Twenty things about Blake Snell as he takes the mound Sunday for the first time as a 20-game winner.

Snell …

• Is the first 20-game winner in the majors since 2016.

• Will have the fewest innings of any 20-game winner in history, 169 and counting with two starts left. Jared Weaver had 188⅔ in 2012.

• Has a chance, with a 1.97 going in, to be the first American League 20-game winner with a sub-2.00 ERA since Roger Clemens in 1990 and Ron Guidry in 1978.

• Has a chance to be seventh pitcher in the live ball era (since 1920) to win 20 with a sub-2.00 at age 25 or younger, most recently Tampa's Dwight Gooden for the Mets in 1985.

• Is so serious about not wanting to hear, read or think about what he has done that when his mom started texting him links to stories and video clips after he won his 20th Tuesday, he blocked her on his phone. His own mom! "I don't want to hear it,'' he said. "I know I'm going to reply to my mom, so the only way I'm not is if I don't see it. So I gave it a couple hours where I couldn't see it, she had no clue, and then I unblocked her. Having to do that was funny in a way, and weird 'cause it was my mother, but I just don't like hearing it.''

• Doesn't want to think what it means: "I genuinely don't care what I'm doing right now. I'm aware of it. It's awesome. But I've got two starts left, and I've got to finish. That's all I care about.''

• Has a chance to be the second Cy Young Award winner in franchise history, joining David Price, and just the second from the AL East to win it in the past 15 years, though he doesn't want to talk much about that either. "I've got two starts left, I've got to really dominate and finish strong."

• Is only the sixth AL pitcher in the past 20 years to win 20 at age 25 or younger.

• Is the first to win 20 from a 2011 draft class that included Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Jose Fernandez and Kyle Hendricks. Only 13 of the pitchers taken in that draft have 20 career wins.

• Got congratulatory texts from, among others, former Rays Price, Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Eovaldi. "Guys I look up to, so it was cool to see them watching and supporting me.''

• Had Archer say about him: "Watching his growth since 2016 has been so much fun! 20 wins is a huge feat. He's a unique talent that will continue to do big things in this game.''

• Is the first pitcher named Blake to win 20, though there have been only seven others who took the mound in the majors — Beavan, Hawksworth, Parker, Smith, Stein, Treinen, Wood. (Semirelated, Rays teammate Hunter Wood's middle name is Blake.)

• Is the second 20-game winner born in Washington state, joining Vean Gregg, who won 20 in 2011-13 for the Cleveland Naps.

• Was suddenly discovered by the national media, doing TV interviews with MLB Network and ESPN's Scott Van Pelt, among others.

• Had MLB Network analyst and Hall of Famer John Smoltz say about him: "He's been relatively healthy, and his stuff is dominant. Those two things allow a pitcher to reach his potential as he progresses, and he reminds me of (Atlanta's) Steve Avery when he came up, but how good that left-handed stuff was. His fastball and secondary stuff (is) at times virtually unhittable.''

• Has made 12 of his 29 starts against the AL's five highest-scoring teams, going 9-2, 2.00 against the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Astros and A's.

• Has gone 3-0, 0.59 in eight starts matched up against former Cy Young winners, beating Houston's Justin Verlander, and getting a win and a no-decision against Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Boston's Price.

• Is the second Ray to win 20, with the first of two chances to surpass Price's work in his 2012 Cy Young season and set a franchise record. "That would be pretty impressive,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "You're talking about an organization that has had very, very deep starting pitching, especially over the last 10-12 years. For him to put his name where he already has this year, and have a chance to add to it, I think it speaks volumes about how special his season has gone.''

• Has won eight straight starts, the only pitcher in the majors to do that this season.

• Will be pitching Sunday dealing with what he said is an abscessed tooth — he plans to see a dentist Monday — and has a swollen right cheek to show for it.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.