ST. PETERSBURG — Now it's up to the voters.
LHP Blake Snell completed his compelling case for the American League Cy Young Award, overcoming a shaky first to work five solid innings in the Rays' 4-3 win against the Blue Jays on Saturday.
Snell lowered his AL-best ERA to 1.89, added 10 strikeouts to push his total to 221, and raised his innings total, considered his main shortcoming, to 180⅔, though he didn't get his 22nd win as he left with the score tied; he still finished the season with the majors' most wins.
"I feel like I've put up a good case,'' Snell said, breaking his vow of Cy-lence to talk about the award for the first time. "They're going to pick who they pick. I don't have a say. But the work that I did put together I feel like it's a good case to have.''
Manager Kevin Cash went further: "There's really not much debate in my opinion.
Houston's Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Cleveland's Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer and Boston's Chris Sale are the other top candidates.
Snell said all the numbers mentioned above "stand out," but he was most pleased with his overall consistency in going 21-5 with the team 89-72.
"Collectively looking at the whole year, I'm very happy with what I accomplished, what this team accomplished,'' he said. "We've got one more game to win 90, which is very exciting.''
30 on 3-0
DH/1B C.J. Cron got to the 30-homer milestone, and he did it with an opposite-field blast on a 3-and-0 pitch in the first inning.
"It was cool to get in the dugout and see all your teammates and how happy they were for you; that's what makes it great,'' said Cron, who signed the ball for the fan who caught it rather than make it a keepsake. "I trusted my ability that if I knew the more at-bats I got, the better chance I had to put up a number like 30. I'm glad I got the opportunity. I'm glad I was able to do it.''
Cash said they had been encouraging Cron to swing more often on 3-and-0. Cron became the ninth player in Rays history to hit 30 homers in a season.
Dan the man
Dan Johnson was back at the Trop on Saturday, honored with a pair of bobblehead giveaways and a ceremonial first pitch for hitting two of the biggest home runs in franchise history: a pinch-hit-tying blast in a crucial September 2008 game in Boston, and another in the ninth inning of Game 162 in 2011, setting the stage for Evan Longoria's dramatics.
"Awesome, man,'' he said. "Coming back here, the memories, to be recognized for it. Even though I still believe I was just a pawn in this higher-powered game, just fortunate to be in the right situation at the right time. And fortunate enough to be able to come through.''
For what it's worth, he thinks the 2011 homer was bigger since the season was otherwise over.
Johnson, 39, spent the summer playing in independent ball, and he still harbors hope of returning to the majors — as a knuckleball pitcher, which he first tried with the Rays in spring training 2016.
"It would be awesome to come back here and play, because this building is amazing for knuckleballs,'' he said.
There has been some magic before.
Rays RHP Andrew Kittredge was suspended three games and fined $1,500 by MLB for "throwing a pitch in the area of the head" of Yankees C Austin Romine on Thursday. The suspension goes into effect at the start of the 2019 season; Kittredge said he is likely to appeal. "I'm a little disappointed obviously,'' he said. "I guess I'm not overly surprised that it happened."
Yankees LHP CC Sabathia was suspended five games and fined for his retaliatory strike of throwing at Rays C Jesus Sucre after a warning had been issued.
Quote of the day
"I don't plan on it; I don't know that I could deal with Sergio (Romo) standing next to me for nine innings.''
— Cash, saying he won't have a veteran player "manage" Sunday's finale, as Toronto's outgoing manager John Gibbons will do with C Russell Martin
• The Rays won 50 home games for the fourth time in franchise history, first since 2013.
• LF Tommy Pham extended his on-base streak to 31 games.
• Cash said it's unlikely that DH Ji-Man Choi (neck) or 3B Matt Duffy (quad) will play in Sunday's finale.