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Snell solid, but W continues to prove elusive

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Blake Snell's second outing since his return to the Majors showed signs of progress. For the first time all season, the lefty kept the other team off the board despite dealing with runners on base in every frame of his outing.

Snell departed the game after five scoreless innings and in line for the win, but the problem was when he left it. For the ninth straight time, he couldn't reach the six-inning mark and could only watch as the bullpen surrendered the lead in the 7-3 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

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CHICAGO -- Blake Snell's second outing since his return to the Majors showed signs of progress. For the first time all season, the lefty kept the other team off the board despite dealing with runners on base in every frame of his outing.

Snell departed the game after five scoreless innings and in line for the win, but the problem was when he left it. For the ninth straight time, he couldn't reach the six-inning mark and could only watch as the bullpen surrendered the lead in the 7-3 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

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"It's always going to be tough, but I know that they're giving it their all," Snell said. "It's definitely a step forward, but I've got to get into the sixth inning. I have to."

While Snell's outing -- and chance at his first win of the season -- was marred by the finish, there were plenty of positives to take away.

For starters, Snell relied heavily on his fastball and it paid off. The pitch topped out at 97 mph, and he used it to rack up several of his strikeouts, including all three in the second inning.

"It was a lot [of confidence] but [catcher Jesus Sucre] noticed it," Snell said. "He really did a great job back there and just having me in attack mode. Every half-inning he was talking to me: 'Attack. Come on. Let's go. Let's go.'"

But there was also the negative. Not counting an intentional walk to Addison Russell, Snell faced a total of seven Cubs with a runner in scoring position, which led to his pitch count reaching 97 after just five innings.

"Somehow we've got to get to where that pitch count comes down a little bit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He can get deeper in ballgames and get quicker outs. It's just very tough for him for whatever reason to get early outs."

Sure enough, that was a problem across the board.

Erasmo Ramirez came in for the sixth and allowed Ian Happ to reach on a hard-hit leadoff single that was nearly caught by Logan Morrison. Ramirez would go on to allow a game-tying three-run homer to Jon Jay with two out in the inning. He was pulled after walking Kris Bryant to lead off the seventh.

The Cubs would eventually take the lead in that frame, plating two runs before extending their lead in the eighth. That was a source of frustration for Cash after the game, especially after the team nearly lost its lead in the ninth inning the night before.

"I don't want to sound like a broken record. I know I do every time, but count control is everything in this league," Cash said. "There's not a pitcher that's good enough in baseball to continue to fall behind hitters and expect to get them out."

Scott Chasen is a reporter with MLB.com based in Chicago and covered the Rays on Wednesday.

Tampa Bay Rays