Snell sings way to Players League playoff spot

Rays left-hander first to secure postseason berth in The Show

April 26th, 2020

can play video games with the best of them, and he sure can rage with the best of them, too. It's only fitting then that the Rays left-hander's passion and fire were on full display as he became the first player to clinch a playoff berth in the MLB The Show Players League on Saturday night -- even though it didn't come easily.

Snell showed off every emotional element of a winning stream -- trash talk, winning play, loud singing along to music and unfiltered rants of frustration -- as he entered the evening with a magic number of two and the determination to reduce that to zero by the end of the night.

"Guys, we're going to be real patient," Snell said at the start of his stream. "We're going to be waiting for strikes. I'm not going to be talking to the chat as much. We've got to win these games."

Snell got things off to a resounding start with a 13-0 win over David Dahl and the Rockies in his opening game, but Juan Soto's Nationals put the celebration on hold with a 2-0 upset of the top-seeded Snell in the following contest as Brett Phillips of the Royals popped in for a cameo in the chat room.

That result severely rattled Snell, who had to take a music and dancing break with his stream before he warmed up for his final game, a 6-0 win and no-hitter against Ty Buttrey's Angels that helped him improve to 21-4 and officially put the playoffs on lock.

For all of Joey Gallo's breakout success in the league, Snell is, by all indications, looking like the favorite to win it all with a league-leading 141 runs scored and 1.041 team slugging percentage on offense and a similarly league-best 4.32 ERA from his pitching staff with four more games to play.

"Right now, we're sitting at the top," Snell said. "We're doing good, man. The hitters are swinging it. The pitchers are pitching. That's what it is, man. Most runs scored by far."

Soto shuffles it up
When Snell learned that Soto was doing some advance scouting by tuning in to Snell's stream, he took an easy opportunity to poke some fun at his forthcoming opponent by pausing his game, shooting up out of his chair and mimicking the "Soto Shuffle" on camera.

"Soto! I don't need none of that!" Snell yelled. "Don't be doing me dirty, Soto! I don't need none of that!"

Perhaps Snell should have won his matchup against Soto before doing that. Instead, the young Nationals superstar translated his keen plate discipline into the game and irritated Snell with his extreme patience as the Rays lefty struggled to throw strikes. Soto jumped on Snell with a run in the first and added another in the third while pitching a shutout to seal the win.

"That's brutal," said a disgusted Snell, who launched into an extended tirade. "Terrible loss. I feel bad for whoever plays me next."

But no amount of disappointment from Snell could drown out Soto's clear jubilation at having knocked off the first-place player in the standings.

"What a game! I just beat the best guy right now," said a beaming Soto, pounding his chest. "I beat him. The best. Right now, I feel like I'm the best. If I beat the best, I'm the best. That's how it is, brother. I feel like a champion right now. I beat the best, so I'm the best. I don't care. I beat the champion.

"I don't care what place I'm in right now -- I beat the best, so I'm the best."

Go Cubs Go
With all that said, the biggest winner of the night was probably Ian Happ of the Cubs, who pitched well against some strong opposition to complete an undefeated evening with wins over Gavin Lux (Dodgers), Niko Goodrum (Tigers), Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres) and Carlos Santana (Indians). That performance improved Happ's record to 13-9, immediately catapulting him onto the playoff bubble.

All of this happened, of course, to the tune of "Go Cubs Go," which Happ blared in the background of his stream after every win.

"Yeah! Couple of upsets! Woo!" Happ yelled after he got Tatis to fly out to finish off a 1-0 win. "Cubbies are hot tonight! Cubbies are hot tonight!"

Happ allowed only one run in his four games -- coming against Lux's Dodgers -- which was a particularly impressive feat considering not only that Tatís ranks second in the league with 121 runs scored, but also that Happ's 76 runs allowed during the season remains among the worst overall pitching performances in the league.

Hey, Chicago, what do you say?

The playoff picture

  1. Blake Snell (Rays) -- 21-4 (clinched playoff spot)
  2. Joey Gallo (Rangers) -- 19-4
  3. Bo Bichette (Blue Jays) -- 14-5
  4. Gavin Lux (Dodgers) -- 18-7
  5. Jeff McNeil (Mets) -- 15-7
  6. Lucas Giolito (White Sox) -- 17-9 (the standings currently say 16-9, but that doesn't yet include his ESPN2 win from Saturday, which needs to be entered in manually by the commissioner)
  7. Tommy Kahnle (Yankees) -- 13-7
  8. Fernando Tatís Jr. (Padres) -- 17-10

First three out
9) Amir Garrett (Reds) -- 17-10
10) Dwight Smith Jr. (Orioles) -- 15-9
11) Ian Happ (Cubs) -- 13-9

Sunday's games to watch
The playoff picture should grow even clearer on Sunday, with most of the favorites and bubble players in action as part of a jam-packed slate of 21 different streams. A pair of meaningful matchups (the Brewers' Josh Hader vs. Bichette, the Twins' Trevor May vs. Tatís) will lead off the evening on the MLB Network showcase at 8 p.m. ET, with the remainder of the matchups to follow on the players' Twitch streams, as usual, at 9 p.m. ET.

Watch as Bichette, Gallo, Kahnle and McNeil aim to maintain their hold on their playoff spots, while others, like Smith, May, Hader and Jon Duplantier (D-backs), will look to close that gap and force their way into the postseason picture.

Where to watch
Over the next few days, the league will be livestreamed on MLB social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch), MLB Network's Twitch site, "MLB The Show" social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch), the clubs’ social media accounts and Each player will also stream it from their individual Twitch or YouTube accounts.

Aside from those streams, in order to provide a full gameday experience, MLB Network will provide a livestream in which it will select the best one-on-one matchups and look into other game results and friendly banter.