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'Zilla' powers through to give ailing 'pen a rest

MLB.com @wwchastain

Blake Snell stepped forth with an impressive effort Saturday night at Busch Stadium considering the state of the Rays' bullpen. Alas, the Rays took a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals, but Snell got the job done.

Snell's seven innings were just what the doctor ordered for a Rays bullpen that was running on fumes.

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Blake Snell stepped forth with an impressive effort Saturday night at Busch Stadium considering the state of the Rays' bullpen. Alas, the Rays took a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals, but Snell got the job done.

Snell's seven innings were just what the doctor ordered for a Rays bullpen that was running on fumes.

View Full Game Coverage

"It was huge for him to step up and do what we all know he can do," said Brad Boxberger, who took the loss Saturday night. "To go out there and pitch that well against a good lineup is defintely what we needed in that situation and it's definitely much appreciated by the bullpen."

Consider the work performed by Rays relievers in the team's Thursday and Friday wins.

Friday night, five relievers covered 5 1/3 innings after starter Jake Odorizzi worked just 3 2/3 innings. And Thursday afternoon, Alex Cobb departed after 4 1/3 innings, which left 4 2/3 innings for four relievers to cover.

Snell (aka "Zilla" for Players Weekend) certainly didn't pitch like a guy who had struggled for much of the season trying to reach the late innings.

Entering Saturday night, Snell had pitched six or more innings in three consecutive starts. However, he'd pitched five innings or fewer in 10 of his 17 starts. On top of that, he'd only won twice in 19 career starts on the road.

Snell allowed two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven, and one of those runs should not have scored as left-fielder Corey Dickerson lost a ball in the twilight. Snell didn't appear rattled and exited the game with his third win in sight. But the Cardinals rallied for the come-from-behind win, leaving Snell with a no-decision.

"Blake was outstanding, really impressed again," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I mean, I keep saying this and hopefully we continue to keep saying this, because we need him to step up big for us and he did tonight. There were a lot of things in his start that went wrong, not by his doing, just by a couple of balls in the corner and then we lost a ball up, and it didn't faze him one bit. That's a big step in the right direction that he continues making."

Added Rays releiver Tommy Hunter: "Blake threw a great game tonight. He gave us a chance to win."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said his hitters had "trouble picking [Snell] up."

"He has a lot of deception -- hides the ball and then comes from a different slot," Matheny said. "It took a couple at-bats off him before the guys really felt like they had a nice idea of where his release point was going to be. You mix that with good velocity and sharp break, he's going to keep an offense down."

Snell liked some things about the way he pitched, specifically how the pitcher-catcher relationship with Wilson Ramos worked. He wasn't happy with what he called "wasted pitches," but was pleased that his effort helped out the bullpen.

"It's huge," he said. "Those guys every night are just cleaning up innings and they're a great group, special group. It's fun to watch them, because every night they're really doing the best they can and it's good for us to see that, because as starters we love to see that the bullpen comes in and locks it down for the most part."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Blake Snell