Snell swell at limiting damage, escaping jams

Snell swell at limiting damage, escaping jams

ST. PETERSBURG -- It was the second straight game that ended in a nearly identical way for Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell. He'd lasted 5 1/3 innings, but he'd run up a high pitch count and exited with runners on base.

It was also the second straight game that Snell limited the opponents' damage, even when he didn't have his best stuff. He allowed only one run in a 6-2 Rays loss to Minnesota on Friday evening at Tropicana Field.

"Just wish I would've went a little deeper in the game, and by doing that, I should've been more consistent with my pitches and more competitive in the zone," Snell said. "It's something I'll learn from."

Snell departed with 97 pitches and two on. But it was the fifth straight start where he's allowed two runs or fewer, dating back to July 7. After allowing a third-inning walk to Joe Mauer, he retired nine straight batters.

He seemed to labor at times, but he continued to prove an already established trend: He overcomes lackluster starts by limiting damage and getting out of jams. The bullpen didn't have the same fortune, giving up five runs to surrender the game.

"You're not going to be at your best all the time," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "For a young pitcher, he seems to adjust pretty well, given what he has on that given night, finding out what two or three of the pitches that he features is working for him."

After the Twins tied the game at 1 in the third inning on a Brian Dozier triple, Snell faced a first-and-third situation with one out. He struck out Max Kepler and Miguel Sano to end the inning. It took him 28 pitches to get through the frame, but he did so without letting Minnesota get out in front.

Snell has given up two or fewer runs in eight of his 10 starts because of that ability. He's only been a staple in the Major League rotation since the middle of June, but he has been capable on nights when he doesn't look like the star he's projected to become.

Still, the 23-year-old was reflective and critical of the areas that warranted it, just like he has been since he was called up.

"I feel like I'm just trying to do too much," Snell said. "I just needed to be in the zone.

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.