ST. PETERSBURG -- Blake Snell made strides Thursday night, and his manager, Kevin Cash, gave credit where credit was due after Snell did his part in the Rays' 4-1 win over the Indians.
"We had a chance to win the game simply because of Blake Snell's performance," Cash said. "It was outstanding."
Snell has struggled this season, his second in the Major Leagues. He's still winless in 15 starts, he's gone up and down between Tampa Bay and Triple-A Durham, and he's been unable to pitch more than five innings in 10 of 15 starts. But Thursday night's no-decision by the left-hander might turn out to be a breakthrough performance.
By winning, the Rays (59-57) snapped a two-game losing streak and moved to within seven games of the American League East-leading Red Sox and to within 2 1/2 games of the Wild Card-leading Yankees, who lost to the Blue Jays. The Rays are now tied with the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot.
Snell allowed one run on four hits with two walks and he struck out four in 6 1/3 innings. According to Statcast™, 65 of his 101 pitches were fastballs (64.4 percent), and only one of the four hits came against a fastball.
"I could tell it was really carrying well," said Snell of his fastball. "And just by seeing their swings I knew I had to use it more than the offspeed today."
Cash noted that Snell pounding his fastball like he did is "huge for him in any start."
"He's got to be able to command the fastball for him to have success," Cash said. "And then he complements it with the changeup, which was good today for him, and some of the sliders below were good. But I liked the way he attacked.
"[The Indians' lineup], they don't strike out a lot and they're very patient at the plate. If you kind of pitch around your fastball, they're going to find their way on base a lot. And I thought he attacked really well with the fastball."
Snell showed some moxie in the fourth when the Indians loaded the bases for former Ray Brandon Guyer with two outs. Snell started to run off the mound when he thought he had Guyer struck out looking. But Guyer got a reprieve with a ball call. Snell came back with a 95-mph fastball. When Guyer took this one, it was strike three and Snell escaped a potential big inning.
"I was impressed," Cash said. "That was a lot of reaction there for the pitch. I think [home-plate umpire Greg Gibson] got it right. It was a ball off the plate. But [Snell] lost it for a split second, regained his focus, and came back to make a big pitch."
Francisco Lindor doubled to left off Snell to lead off the game and moved to third on a groundout. Jose Ramirez singled to drive him in for the Indians' only run.
Snell has a 3.69 ERA over his last six starts, lowering his season ERA from 5.36 to 4.69.
Snell "has made some progress since he's been back [in the Major Leagues]," Cash said. "And the progress that he's made has shown quite a bit in certain select starts. But today was right at the top."