BOSTON — Blake Snell failed the Rays again Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Red Sox.
And then they did something about it, the Tampa Bay Times has learned, sending the second-year lefty to Triple-A Durham so he can try to pitch his way back into top form.
Snell, 24, has struggled with command of his fastball and has repeatedly been working from behind in counts, which was a big issue for him again on Saturday as he dropped to 0-4 with a 4.71 ERA in eight starts.
After the Rays took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning on their second homer of the day — both by lefties — off Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale, Snell gave it back and more in a messy four-run fifth.
Snell started by walking No. 7 hitter Sandy Leon — the third straight inning he put the leadoff man on — then gave up three consecutive doubles, to Jackie Bradley, Deven Marrero and Mookie Betts, which netted three runs, then a bunt and a groundout (mishandled by Tim Beckham) that made it 6-3.
Snell hadn't gotten past five innings in six straight starts, and when he finally finished the fifth with 94 pitches it seemed like he was done. But, perhaps to make a point, the Rays sent him out for the sixth and left him there until after a two-out single on his career-high 113th pitch.
The Rays felt he was ready for a breakout year after going 6-8, 3.54 as a 2016 rookie. Instead team officials decided on a demotion to Durham, where they hope in the less-pressurized environment he can regain his command.
Erasmo Ramirez is likely to take Snell's place in the rotation, though with the combination of a potential Sunday rainout and Thursday's off day they could wait. Right-hander Ryne Stanek was promoted from Durham to join the bullpen.
The Rays (18-21) knew they had a tough assignment in facing Sale, who came into the game leading the majors with 73 strikeouts and with 10 or more in his previous six straight games. Especially since the Rays had fanned the most of any team, 384 times, including a majors-most 24 games of 10 or more.
So it was something of a victory when they took a 1-0 lead in the second on a homer by lefty Logan Morrison, his team-high 10th of the year. And maybe even more when they went up 3-2 in the fifth on a two-run shot — and on a two-out, 0-and-2, 98 mph Sale fastball — by Kevin Kiermaier, his first since April 20. That was only the third game Sale, the Lakeland-born lefty, had allowed two homers to lefty hitters.
Sale left after seven innings, having struck out 12 Rays.
Morrison's 10th homer came in the Rays' 39th game, making him the quickest to double digits since 2009, when Carlos Peña did it in game 24 and Evan Longoria in game 30.
Until Morrison's blast, Sale had not given up an extra-base hit, or an RBI, to a lefty hitter this season; 3-for-20 to that point. He had two 2016 games in which he allowed two homers to lefty batters.
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Saturday's game was moved up from a planned 7:10 start due to a forecast for heavy rain starting Saturday night, which will put Sunday's series finale in jeopardy. If played, Matt Andriese will face Boston's Drew Pomeranz.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.