AL East clinch on hold as Snell takes loss

September 23rd, 2020

The Rays have waited 10 years to raise another American League East banner at Tropicana Field, and that’ll have to wait at least another day after a 5-2 loss to the Mets on Tuesday at Citi Field.

With the loss and the Yankees’ win over the Blue Jays, the Rays’ lead in the AL East is 3 1/2 games. The White Sox lost to the Indians, which helped the Rays maintain a 1 1/2-game lead for the No. 1 seed in the AL with four games left.

“Obviously we wanted to do it tonight, but either way, if we do it tomorrow, it’ll be special,” said Rays shortstop Willy Adames. “I know the guys are going to come with a good mentality, with a positive mind, and we’re gonna go attack tomorrow and take that series against the Mets.”

was on the mound for the last time in the regular season, and the left-hander had mixed results in his final tuneup before the postseason. Snell threw a season-high 108 pitches, allowing three runs and striking out nine over 5 2/3 innings.

Snell had a healthy mix with all four pitches on Tuesday, which is a good sign for Tampa Bay heading into the postseason. He threw 48 fastballs, 31 sliders, 19 changeups and 10 curveballs. Snell recorded a season-high 22 swings and misses -- another good sign heading into the playoffs.

The next time Snell takes the mound, it’ll likely be in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series.

“The pitch count, that’s not the worst thing that the pitch count got to where it was,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He’s going to have some extra rest now, and just to be able to get out there for 105-110 pitches, that’s not something that we’ve done too often with him this year. So [pitching coach Kyle Snyder] and I were talking through the game, and we were comfortable with it.”

Though Snell was able to get to a healthy pitch count heading into the postseason, he struggled with his overall command in the loss. He threw 67 strikes, but only 11 were called by home-plate umpire David Rackley. Snell had eight called strikes on the four-seam fastball, but only one each on his slider, changeup and curveball.

Snell walked three, increasing his season total to 18 in 50 innings. He has walked two or more hitters in seven of his 11 starts this season. Snell also got into three full counts, which pushed his pitch count up.

“It’s just frustrating,” Snell said. “I just have to attack the zone better. I feel like I started off slow, wasn’t attacking and wasn’t aggressive. I was more trying to get swings. At the end of the day, I need to be better. I need to be in the zone. I need to see what they’re doing and just be better. That’s it.”

But while Snell wasn’t as sharp as he’s been all season, the Rays’ offense didn’t do much to help the left-hander, continuing the recent struggles. Adames hit his third home run of the road trip, a solo homer in the second, but that was the only offensive highlight on the night for the Rays.

Tampa Bay’s offense was held to two runs and has now been held to three runs or fewer in five consecutive games. The Rays struck out 12 times, pushing their total to 44 over the last three games.

“We’ll see if we can get a little bit of life to our offense, because it has been quiet,” Cash said. “Strikeouts have been high. I’m pretty confident that we’ll be fine, but there’s no doubt that it’s frustrating when, at that point, Blake had given up two solo home runs and we’re not putting any pressure on the opposing pitcher.”