ARLINGTON -- Blake Snell threw five scoreless innings to earn his Major League-leading 20th win this season, as Snell and three Rays relievers combined to shut out the Rangers, 4-0, Tuesday night at Globe Life Park. The series-clinching victory was the Rays' 13th win in their last 16 games, and they are 35-19 since the All-Star break. Tampa Bay is 8-0-1 in its last nine series, as it makes a strong playoff push.
"Pretty special that he got his 20th win and 200th strikeout on the same day," manager Kevin Cash said after the game.
Snell's performance also dropped his ERA under 2.00, to 1.97.
"He deserves all the credit that he's getting right now," Cash added. "I don't want to sound ridiculous, and say that he probably wasn't his best today because he threw five shutout innings, but we've seen Blake better. But he battled through his command a little bit. You could tell he really grinded. Ultimately, he was really outstanding, a really outstanding season."
Cash said that Snell's mechanics were a little out of whack, causing him to struggle with his command. He threw 92 pitches, 58 for strikes.
"He's probably a little surprised that he came out after the fifth, because he had more left to go into the sixth, but the last thing I wanted to do was getting him out there and then not let him complete the inning," Cash said.
Snell becomes just the second Rays' pitcher to reach the 20-win plateau. David Price did it in 2012, but his 20th win came in his 31st start that season. Snell has won 20 in 29 starts and likely has at least two more opportunities to set a new Rays' record.
The Rays' offense was stymied early in the game by inning-ending double plays in the second and third, but Tampa Bay broke the ice against Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo in the fourth inning with a two-run home run off the bat of Willy Adames, his 10th. A pair of doubles followed to extend the Rays' lead to 3-0. The Rays added an insurance run in the seventh inning.
Tampa Bay knocked six Ranger pitchers around for 15 hits, getting at least one hit in every inning but the sixth. Joey Wendle was the offensive star of the game as he matched his career high with four hits, two doubles and two singles. He scored a run and drove one home.
"I'm just trying to have good at-bats, just kind of hit 'em where they weren't," Wendle said.
He admitted that he likes hitting in the heat, so he was pleased with the 91-degree temperature at start time.
He was really more interested, though, in talking about Snell.
"Every time he takes the mound, you've got the opportunity to see something special," Wendle said.
"As a team, we've been playing good team baseball," Snell said. "The guys have been helping me swinging it and playing good defense. As a team, we've been playing so good that it's fun being here. It's fun playing with these guys. It's fun knowing we're gonna win every game when we go out there. I'm very comfortable playing with this team. I feel like they have my back."
After the game, Snell's teammates presented him with a game ball to recognize his 20-win season.
"It was special for me to see that they supported me, but they contribute so much to it," Snell said. "It's cool that I get the 20 wins under my name, but it's a total team effort. Without them hitting and without them playing defense, I can't win."
The win kept the Rays' playoff hopes alive. The Rays still trail the Yankees by eight games and Oakland by 5 1/2 games in the loss column as they chase a Wild Card berth. After this series with the Rangers, the Rays have seven games remaining with Toronto and four games with the Yankees.
When Snell was taken out, it marked 440 games that the Rays have gone without a complete game from their starting pitcher. Matt Andriese was the last Rays pitcher to toss a complete game on May 14, 2016. That's the longest drought in American League history, but it trails the Major League record of 480 games set by the Miami Marlins (June 4, 2014 - June 2, 2017).
HE SAID IT
"The kid tonight is the real deal. He knows how to pitch and has good velocity. He threw the breaking ball in fastball counts for strikes and kept us off balance. We weren't able to find a way to get anything going." -- Ranger Adrian Beltre, on Snell