ST. PETERSBURG – Starting pitcher Blake Snell turned in a dominant performance on Sunday, allowing three hits and two walks over six scoreless innings as the Rays defeated the White Sox and put an end to their five-game losing streak. In his last four starts, Snell has allowed only four combined runs over 22 innings, lowering his ERA to 4.28 for the season. Rays manager Kevin Cash said that Snell’s recent success is due, in part, to pitching within the strike zone.
“As long as he’s showing the opposing lineup that he’s getting the ball over the plate, he’s going to have good nights.”
Through his first 16 starts, Snell posted a 5.01 ERA and turned in a few clunkers. All the while, he insisted that he felt better than he did during his Cy Young Award-winning 2018 season, and that Cy Young stuff showed up again on Sunday. Snell said that he still has things to improve on, but he is content with his recent rebound.
“Overall, I was happy,” Snell said. “I wish I would have had more first pitch strikes.”
Snell threw first pitch strikes to 16 of the 22 batters he faced.
Sticking with Choi
Cash penciled designated hitter Ji-Man Choi in at the leadoff spot on Sunday, his second consecutive day atop the lineup.
“The two guys who are getting on base, maybe at the highest clip, are (Choi) and Meadows,” Cash said. “Let’s see if we can continue forcing the issue and maybe find that big hit.”
Among qualified batters, Choi ranks third on the team with his .347 on-base percentage. He trails outfielders Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham. The decision to move Choi to the top of the order drops Meadows into the second spot, a position where his team-leading .892 OPS can potentially drive in more base runners.
Infielder Matt Duffy flew to Florida on Sunday to rejoin his teammates before the home series against Boston that begins Monday night. He could be activated at some point during the series.
Primary second baseman Brandon Lowe took ground balls on Saturday, but Cash said that the 2019 All-Star does not look ready to return from his right shin contusion. “His steps seem really calculated,” Cash said of Lowe. “It doesn’t seem like he’s quite where he needs to be, mobility-wise.”
After Lowe landed on the injured list on July 4, Cash said he hoped to have his second baseman back for the Orioles series after the All-Star Break. That series that wrapped up on July 14, and Lowe’s timetable to return to the active roster remains undefined. “Little things can kind of irritate it and still hurt it, which is a little head-scratching,” Cash said.
Infielder Daniel Robertson, on the IL retro to June 22 after arthroscopic knee surgery, is likely to begin a rehab assignment in Port Charlotte on Monday, Cash said. He will spend a few days there before continuing his rehab in Durham.
Guillermo Heredia has shuffled between the Rays and class Triple-A Durham since the All-Star Break. Tampa Bay optioned and recalled Heredia twice over the last week. His latest call up came on Sunday after Kevin Kiermaier hit the 10-day IL with a left thumb sprain.
“That’s part of the game, going up and down,” Heredia said. “I’m going to do everything I can, whether I’m up or down, to perform.”
Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera are among six players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Halladay, an Odessa resident and beloved youth coach in the Tampa Bay area, died in a plane crash in Pasco County in November 2017. He made his major-league debut for the Blue Jays against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Sept. 20, 1998. Rivera recorded 64 of his 652 career saves against Tampa Bay.