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Snell readies to make first hometown start

Seattle-born lefty will have family, friends in stands for Sunday's outing at Safeco
MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Blake Snell, born in Seattle and raised in nearby Shoreline, grew up watching almost every Mariners game with his father. He attended games at the Kingdome and Safeco Field, collected Mariners bobbleheads and jerseys, and hung posters of Alex Rodriguez, Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr. on his bedroom wall.

Snell idolized Felix Hernandez. He remembers Hernandez's big league debut as a 19-year-old in 2005 and the countless stellar seasons afterwards.

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SEATTLE -- Blake Snell, born in Seattle and raised in nearby Shoreline, grew up watching almost every Mariners game with his father. He attended games at the Kingdome and Safeco Field, collected Mariners bobbleheads and jerseys, and hung posters of Alex Rodriguez, Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr. on his bedroom wall.

Snell idolized Felix Hernandez. He remembers Hernandez's big league debut as a 19-year-old in 2005 and the countless stellar seasons afterwards.

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But Snell's allegiance to Seattle will be thrown out the window Sunday when he makes his first big league start at Safeco Field against none other than Hernandez when the Rays wrap up their three-game series against the Mariners at 4:10 p.m. ET.

"I'm excited to play at Safeco," Snell said. "It's always been a dream of mine. To do it against Felix is going to be even more exciting."

Snell (7-3, 2.56 ERA) expects to have between 15 to 20 family members and friends in the stands when he takes the mound at Safeco for the first time since his high school career. As a junior at Shorewood High School, located less than 15 miles from Safeco Field, Snell pitched 6 1/3 innings in a 1-0 loss to Richland in the 2010 state semifinals.

However, Snell admitted he's more excited to be facing Hernandez than pitching in his hometown.

"With what he's done, it's just hard not to root for him," Snell said of Hernandez.

Snell comes to Seattle a winner in each of his last three starts and has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six. On Sunday, he will face a Mariners team that went into Saturday's game tied for fourth in the American League in batting average.

"They are very good right now," Snell said. "… They are a good hitting team, and what they are doing right now is a reason why they are winning."

Rays manager Kevin Cash said his club has had multiple players perform well in their home cities this season, and hopes Snell can continue the trend Sunday.

"I know he is going to be excited," Cash said. "He should be excited because he is going to have a lot of family and friends here. You always want guys to do good in their home town. … Guys generally get amped up to do it, you just hope they don't put too much pressure on themselves."

Snell has pitched twice against the Mariners in his career, both in Tampa, posting a 1-1 record. Snell shut out the Mariners for seven innings in his last start against them, allowing two hits and striking out eight in a 3-0 win on Aug. 20, 2017.

Ramos to DH
Catcher Wilson Ramos took a ball of the knee in Friday night's 4-3 loss, but showed no signs of injury, according to Cash. Ramos will move to DH on Saturday, with former Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre starting behind the plate.

Erik Erickson is a contributor to MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays, Blake Snell