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Snell finds something extra to finish 11-K start

With tying run at the plate, Rays ace strikes out 3 straight White Sox in final frame
@juanctoribio
April 8, 2019

CHICAGO -- Early on, it looked like Blake Snell was on his way to yet another low-stress, dominant performance. Snell, who allowed one run and struck out 11 over six innings in the Rays’ 5-1 win over the White Sox on Monday, was still able to control Chicago’s offense, but

CHICAGO -- Early on, it looked like Blake Snell was on his way to yet another low-stress, dominant performance. Snell, who allowed one run and struck out 11 over six innings in the Rays’ 5-1 win over the White Sox on Monday, was still able to control Chicago’s offense, but he did it by fighting some tough situations.

Through two innings, Snell had thrown just 29 pitches and recorded five strikeouts after fanning the side in the second. Jose Rondon’s home run in the fifth inning was the only run he allowed, which snapped a franchise-record 35 2/3-inning scoreless streak by Rays starting pitchers, but the White Sox had an opportunity to do some more damage off Snell in the sixth inning.

Leury Garcia led off the inning with a double, and Tim Anderson was credited with a single on a comebacker that hit the top of Snell’s glove. With runners at the corners with nobody out, Chicago had the heart of the order come up against Snell.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder and catcher Mike Zunino came out for a quick chat with Snell before the left-hander went back to work.

“I was more frustrated that I threw a great changeup to Leury and he pulled it somehow,” Snell said. “Then when Tim got on, I got locked in and I said, ‘OK, if they get ahead, I have to give them the best that I’ve got and see what happens,’ and today it favored me.”

The first challenge was Jose Abreu, and Snell was able to come out on top, striking out the slugger with a curveball in the dirt. Snell followed it up by striking out Welington Castillo and Yoan Moncada, both on curveballs, to get out of the inning unscathed.

“That was a big moment early on in the year for him to get through that,” said Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. “We really needed him to, and he really kind of bowed up and made some big pitches right there at the end.”

After allowing five earned runs against the Astros in an Opening Day loss, Snell has returned to his American League Cy Young Award-winning form over his past two starts (13 innings) by striking out 24 batters.

It’s the third time in Snell’s career that he finished a game with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks. The last time Snell accomplished the feat was on June 3, 2018.

“He’s got really good stuff,” said White Sox manager Rick Renteria. “His breaking ball falls off the table. He can throw it short, make you chase. It has a hard bite and it’s kind of late. He does have a different gear, gets up to 97 and he can pretty much elevate it out of the zone. It looks like it’s going to stay in there and it ends up rising. This guy’s an excellent pitcher.”

Snell threw 42 fastballs, 35 curveballs, 18 changeups and just four sliders on Monday. In his last start against the Rockies, Snell distributed all four of his pitches a little more evenly, finishing with 36 fastballs, 27 curveballs, 22 changeups and 16 sliders. Even without the balanced mix, Snell was able to deliver yet another good outing.

“I feel really good with where I’m at right now, and [I'll] continue to build and learn and grow, and it was cool,” Snell said. “I saw myself throwing a lot more curveballs again, and I told myself to come on. It was good I was able to switch midway and realized what makes me a good pitcher.”

Juan Toribio covers the Dodgers for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.