Snell wins No. 21 as Rays beat Blue Jays 5-2

Blake Snell was eyeing his 21st win while pitching against the Blue Jays Sunday in Toronto. [AP]
Blake Snell was eyeing his 21st win while pitching against the Blue Jays Sunday in Toronto. [AP]
Published September 23 2018
Updated September 23 2018

TORONTO — Blake Snell doesn't look like he can be stopped.

He pitched again for the Rays in Sunday's 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays, he dominated again and he won again.

That's both a major-league-leading and team-record-breaking 21st victory for Snell, with the chance for one more, slated for Saturday as of now, at the Trop.

As Snell lowered his American League-leading ERA to 1.90 with another 6⅔ scoreless innings in a season as remarkable for his consistency as his level of excellence, there seems to be only remaining question:

Will he also win the AL Cy Young Award?

"If (Sunday) wasn't the final nod, then I don't know what is,'' Rays center­fielder Kevin Kiermaier said. "The guy is just absolutely dominant.''

"I won't be the first guy to be mad if he doesn't win," catcher Jesus Sucre said. "That guy is unreal. … I don't even have words to say about that guy.''

Snell, 25, will have a compelling case when two Baseball Writers' Association of America voters in each American League city cast their ballots before the start of the playoffs, with the results announced in November:

Statistically, with the 21-5, 1.90 base numbers and columns of others metrically advanced.

Anecdotally, given the names coming up in assorted conversations about him, just in the past few days, including past winners Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay and, of course, David Price, whose Rays record Snell broke Sunday.

And in testimony, from teammates and opponents.

"There's a good chance he's going to win the Cy Young,'' Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's pretty dominating.''

The balloting will be intriguing as accomplishments will be weighed against workload as voters consider Snell (who has thrown 175⅔ innings), Boston's Chris Sale (153⅓) and Cleveland's Trevor Bauer (167⅓), who all had time on the disabled list, plus Houston's Gerrit Cole (194⅓) and Justin Verlander (208), and Cleveland's Kluber (203).

"I think (Snell is) pretty much cementing his case that he belongs not just in the conversation but right at the top of the list,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He's at the mercy, I guess, of me pulling him out of games, so blame me if the 200-inning mark is that big of a deal. … I certainly don't think that's a deal-breaker.''

About the only person not talking about the award is Snell, who has taken a vow of Cy-lence, at least until his work on the mound is done.

"I'll think about it after Saturday,'' he said. "Right now, I'm just locked in. I've got to face (the Jays) one more time. … I've got to be ready.''

Snell had a similar response when he won his milestone 20th game on Tuesday, sharing later the funny story that his mom kept texting him links about it so for a few hours he blocked her number.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder and Cash said that steely focus and determination from the first day of camp is part of the reason for Snell's success.

"I don't even know if Blake would have recognized he was going for 20 wins unless we talked it about it so much and was asked about it,'' Cash said. "He hasn't changed his mentality, his approach, his focus whatsoever. He's just gone out there and been consistent.''

"It's kind of a testament to where he is right now,'' Snyder said.

"He's not satisfied with anything. I think as a result of that he just continues to push forward, focusing on his next game almost immediately after the last out he records of the game he's in. I think it speaks to what it is he wants to accomplish, and it parallels some of the maturity.''

Snell did allow Sunday that breaking the Rays wins record set by someone he admires in Price, in his, ahem, Cy-winning 2012 season, was significant.

"It means a lot,'' Snell said. "He's a great pitcher, very accomplished. To be able to beat it, it's crazy to me. But it's a team effort, and I need all these guys to help me do that.''

Cash said that when you consider the legacy of starting pitching in the Rays organization, setting the wins record is really something.

"It's remarkable,'' Cash said. "Twenty is special, but to break a record … over the last decade or whatever, it's been a very pitching-based organization with just dominant starting pitching. Price, (James) Shields, (Scott) Kazmir, (Alex) Cobb, (Jake) Odorizzi, there's a lot of guys out there, Matt Moore, that have been really special starting pitchers. And Blake has now, for one season, put himself at the top of that list.''

It was Snell's ninth straight win and as impressive as many of the others: 6⅔ innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts, 100 pitches, 60 strikes.

What he lacked in fastball command, he made up for with a dastardly assortment of offspeed pitches based on the awkward swings the Jays took, with "nasty" a common adjective in their clubhouse.

"The hardest thing to do is stay consistent at a high level in the big leagues against great competition,'' Snell said.

"Every team I play I feel like is very good and any day could go south or could go north, especially in the AL East. This division is very, very tough. To be consistent in this division as well as (against) the teams we do play, it's exciting to see. But I still know there is a lot left.''

And a lot already done.

Cy Snell?

Rays LHP Blake Snell is among a half-dozen contenders for the American League Cy Young Award. The candidates:

Name, team                         W-L   ERA   IP         K       WHIP   OPS
Trevor Bauer, Indians     12-6  2.21    167.1    215    1.10       .584
Gerrit Cole, Astros            15-5   2.92   194.1   272    1.03      .601
Corey Kluber, Indians      19-7  2.93   203      205    0.98     .630
Chris Sale, Red Sox            12-4  2.00   153.1   229    0.85     .526
Blake Snell, Rays                21-5   1.90   175.2   211     0.96     .555
Justin Verlander, Astros  16-9  2.60  208      280   0.91       .607

Contact Marc Topkin Follow @TBTimes_Rays.