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Rays fall in Snell's shortest outing of season

MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Before Thursday's game, Rays manager Kevin Cash raved about how Blake Snell has bounced back since the left-hander found out he wasn't selected to the American League All-Star team.

Now, the Rays will need their ace to bounce back next time out, after he struggled early against the Twins and departed after three innings in a 5-1 loss at Target Field.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Before Thursday's game, Rays manager Kevin Cash raved about how Blake Snell has bounced back since the left-hander found out he wasn't selected to the American League All-Star team.

Now, the Rays will need their ace to bounce back next time out, after he struggled early against the Twins and departed after three innings in a 5-1 loss at Target Field.

View Full Game Coverage

It was Snell's shortest outing of the season. He threw 75 pitches, 43 for strikes, and his three runs allowed were his most since June 14.

"Fastball command was poor, and that's why that happened," Snell said. "But they were just better than me today. Got to do a better job of locating the fastball in the zone. If I had done that, it would have been a lot better. But, yeah, frustrating. Got to continue to learn and get better."

Video: TB@MIN: Snell, Cash discuss loss to Twins

After exiting, Snell watched video and quickly uncovered the reason for his missing command: He was "drifting" off to the first-base side of the rubber during his delivery, instead of striding on a straight plane toward home plate.

"For me to not be able to correct right then and there is frustrating for me," Snell said. "Because that was a big thing I focused last year on cleaning up. So it should have been pretty easy for me to clean up right then and there."

Video: TB@MIN: Kepler crosses the dish on Wilson's DP in 2nd

The Twins loaded the bases in the first, making Snell throw 29 pitches. The lefty escaped unscathed, but wasn't as fortunate in the second. With runners on the corners, Bobby Wilson grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, which allowed Max Kepler to score from third and give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

It got worse for Snell in the third, when Brian Dozier roped a one-out single and Robbie Grossman followed by hitting a 97.2-mph fastball the other way for an RBI double. Jorge Polanco followed with an RBI double to make it 3-0.

"You've got to give credit to the Twins' lineup," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "They had a pretty good approach. They didn't swing. They didn't expand, and they put him in some challenging counts. For whatever reason, [Snell] just wasn't able to make the pitches that we've seen him make so many times this year. His pitch count got up, and he could have kept going, but I think 75 pitches through three innings, that's probably enough given the workload that he's had here recently."

Video: TB@MIN: Cash on Snell's struggles, facing Gibson

Snell recovered to strike out Willians Astudillo and induce a groundout from Kepler, but he was replaced by Chih-Wei Hu to start the fourth. Hu, a former Twins prospect who was recalled from Triple-A Durham before the game, settled in and pitched five innings of relief.

Hu allowed no hits and struck out a pair over his first three innings, but he gave up a two-run home run to Eddie Rosario in the seventh, which pushed the Twins' lead to 5-0.

Video: TB@MIN: Hu K's Wilson for 3rd strikeout in 5 innings

Twins starter Kyle Gibson tossed a season-high eight innings, scattering five hits and striking out nine. The Rays' lone run came in the eighth on a Kevin Kiermaier sacrifice fly.

Video: TB@MIN: Kiermaier plates Hechavarria with a sac fly

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Rays can't break through:
The Rays loaded the bases against Twins reliever Ryan Pressly with one out in the ninth, then Minnesota turned to closer Fernando Rodney. On the third pitch Rodney threw, Joey Wendle drilled a line drive 102.3 mph off Rodney's left forearm. Rodney recovered to field the ball and make an underhanded flip home to get the forceout.

After Twins trainers examined Rodney, he remained in the game and struck out Matt Duffy on four pitches to end the game with the bases loaded.

Video: TB@MIN: Rodney fans Duffy to notch his 21st save

UP NEXT
The Rays continue their four-game set with the Twins at 8:10 p.m. ET on Friday at Target Field. Nathan Eovaldi (3-3, 3.35 ERA) will get the start for Tampa Bay coming off one of his best outings of the year. Eovaldi tossed seven innings of one-hit ball and struck out nine against the Mets on Sunday. He will face off with former Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi (4-6, 4.28).

Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.

Tampa Bay Rays, Blake Snell