A quality outing from Blake Snell was exactly what the Padres needed in the series opener against the Marlins. The lefty has been inconsistent this season, especially on the road. However, in the 3-2 win Thursday night, the San Diego starter found his groove, earning his first win on the road this year.
Snell entered the night owning an MLB-high 9.08 ERA in 10 road starts. To reverse course, Padres manager Jayce Tingler needed Snell to attack the zone and not fall behind in counts against the Marlins. So, Snell relied heavily on his four-seam fastball and changeup to record 14 first-pitch strikes, staying aggressive throughout six-plus innings of work.
“The changeup is in timeout,” joked Snell on the pitch he tossed only three times in the win. “I'm annoyed. I mean, that's how the relationship needs to get better. So, I'm gonna keep working with it, but [the pitch] needs to have better communication with me. I honestly think all around, [my] fastball command was really everything.”
Snell had fanned eight batters when he took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning. After allowing a leadoff double to Isan Díaz, though, the starter’s night was over. The lefty was charged with an earned run after the bullpen allowed two runs to score in the bottom of the frame.
It took the pitcher until the third inning to feel comfortable on the mound, but once he was locked in, his skipper could feel a shift in his mental and physical performance.
“I thought the way he was able to get ahead -- he was on the attack all night,” said Tingler. “From the third inning on, I just thought he was really dialed and he kept repeating. … Just absolutely great to see. I think [this start] is one that he's capable of really building on and repeating.”
Snell grew frustrated when he issued early walks, as he knew he could perform better than he has. It was an adjustment to his rhythm that allowed him to earn the win. How did he make that switch? By getting mad at himself.
“I think I'm pretty honest with myself,” said Snell. “I said, ‘This is what you need to do to succeed.’ It was able to work today, but I just got to continue to get better and continue to stay in the zone and make them swing. I said a lot of things, I guess it worked today. So, hopefully, the next time I pitch I can continue to get mad at myself and continue to keep the rhythm.”
Ever since the starter was placed on the IL with a stomach bug on June 30, he’s found it hard to get back into his normal flow on the mound. However, in the series opening win, he felt like himself for the first time in a few weeks. Now that he is feeling better, Snell knows what aspect of his game he has to work on.
“I just feel like when I got sick, I was starting to get into my rhythm,” said Snell. “Then, I got sick for two weeks and then I felt really weak. I had to build all that back up. So, it's just been a lot over the last -- what's it been, three or four weeks? I need to get my fastball velo up. I've got to get stronger.”