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Snell's star continues to rise as ERA plunges

Lefty tosses 7 1/3 shutout frames, K's 9 to earn 12th victory
Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Blake Snell's innings total keeps rising and his ERA keeps falling. But there's one other impressive number the Rays left-hander has on the stat sheet after his latest outstanding start.

Did you notice his .667 on-base percentage?

View Full Game Coverage

NEW YORK -- Blake Snell's innings total keeps rising and his ERA keeps falling. But there's one other impressive number the Rays left-hander has on the stat sheet after his latest outstanding start.

Did you notice his .667 on-base percentage?

View Full Game Coverage

Not bad, although no one is going to be talking about what Snell did at the plate in the Rays' 3-0 win over the Mets on Saturday at Citi Field. No one but Snell, that is.

"I've got a good eye," he deadpanned. "And I've got a knack for the ball, I guess, because I got hit."

Snell walked, struck out and got hit by a pitch during his only three plate appearances this season. Much more importantly, he didn't get hit much when he was on the mound, throwing 7 1/3 shutout innings and continuing a run that has seen him go 8-1 with a 1.27 ERA over his past 10 starts.

Video: TB@NYM: Snell starts the 1-4-3 double play

Snell's ERA has dropped to 2.09, moving him into first in the American League ahead of Luis Severino of the Yankees. Snell has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last four starts, allowing one run or fewer each time.

"He deserves to be in the All-Star Game because he's having an All-Star year," said catcher Wilson Ramos, who improved his own All-Star-worthy numbers with two hits and two RBIs Saturday.

Snell was often a five-inning pitcher last season because he couldn't keep his pitch count down. He set a goal this season of six innings or more per start, but the emphasis lately has been on the "more". He's recorded one out in the eighth inning each of the last two times out, matching a career high set earlier this season.

"I still want to go eight, nine [innings]," he said. "That's the goal. I want to get better."

Video: TB@NYM: Cash on Snell's outing, 3-0 win over Mets

He's already gotten so much better this season, his second full season in the big leagues. He was in control Saturday, even though the Mets put the leadoff man on base six times in his eight innings.

"I got on Wilson Ramos a bit about us not having a clean inning," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He said there's no runs on the board."

There weren't many runs on either side of the board, as a Tampa Bay team that has been held to three runs or fewer eight times in the past 10 games again had trouble scoring. The Rays finally broke through on Ramos' run-scoring grounder in the fifth, but they were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position until Carlos Gomez's bloop single made it 2-0 in the eighth.

Video: TB@NYM: Gomez deposits bloop single for RBI

Ramos drove home the final run in the ninth, and Cash admitted that three runs felt like a lot.

"Yeah," he said. "So did one."

One run was a lot with the way Snell has pitched lately. As for his skills at the plate, the Rays were just happy he didn't get hurt when Mets starter Steven Matz's pitch hit him on his left (pitching) hand.

"I looked at it right away, because I noticed it was my left hand," Snell said. "After I noticed it just grazed me, I was happy."

The Rays had a runner on second base at the time, and Cash planned to have Snell try to bunt. Then he saw how unfamiliar his pitcher looked with bunting, and he took the bunt sign off.

"That's just managing," Snell said, tongue presumably in cheek. "He sees I'm seeing the ball well, and he wanted to give me a chance to do what I was capable of doing, which was walking and getting hit by the ball. Smart managing job, if you ask me."

Good line, but what really makes Cash look smart is when he sends Snell to the mound. And not when he sends him to the plate.

Video: TB@NYM: Snell, Ramos on Ramos' all-around performance

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Snell had thrown 100 pitches through seven innings, which gave Cash the option to again send him out to the mound to begin the eighth. Because Saturday's game was played under National League rules, whether Snell pitched the eighth depended in large part on what the Rays did in the top of the inning. After the Gomez single made it a 2-0 game and brought up Mallex Smith in the eighth spot in the batting order, Cash had Joey Wendle stand in the on-deck circle in place of Snell, because he didn't want the Mets to intentionally walk Smith.

Cash said if Smith had gotten a hit to extend the lead, he was going to let Snell hit and stay in the game. If Smith walked, Wendle would pinch hit and Snell would be out. Since Smith made the final out of the inning, Snell remained in the game. He allowed a double to pinch-hitter Jose Reyes, then retired Brandon Nimmo before Cash summoned Diego Castillo from the bullpen.

"Blake's done a good job being efficient with his pitches and allowing us to have options," Cash said.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
An overturned call helped get Snell out of the first inning. Nimmo, who led off with a double, tried to steal third base with nobody out. Nimmo was originally called safe, but the Rays challenged the call and the review showed he was out. Snell allowed a single to Asdrubal Cabrera later in the first, but the Mets didn't score.

Video: TB@NYM: Ramos throws out Nimmo stealing after review

UP NEXT
Nathan Eovaldi (2-3, 3.92 ERA) makes his first Citi Field start since 2014 when the Rays and Mets conclude their three-game Interleague series Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET. The Mets starter will be right-hander Chris Flexen (0-1, 10.80 ERA), who made three Major League appearances out of the bullpen earlier in the season but most recently has been starting for Triple-A Las Vegas.

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.

Tampa Bay Rays, Blake Snell