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Snell's near no-no not enough to stop Toronto

@baseballexis
April 13, 2019

TORONTO -- Blake Snell’s Saturday start against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre was a reminder of just why the left-hander is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner. Perfect through 3 1/3 innings, Snell allowed his first and only hit to the Blue Jays in the sixth frame,

TORONTO -- Blake Snell’s Saturday start against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre was a reminder of just why the left-hander is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.

Perfect through 3 1/3 innings, Snell allowed his first and only hit to the Blue Jays in the sixth frame, facing only one batter over the minimum in six scoreless innings, in an eventual 3-1 loss. The 26-year-old southpaw cruised through the outing and struck out nine Blue Jays batters.

“Before the game I didn’t feel that good honestly,” Snell said. “But I feel like when I went out there, I got more comfortable and just pitched. I didn’t think about it. I just thought about what I needed to do to execute to beat this team and this lineup.

“They’re very good. It’s a good group of hitters so it was fun to study them, it was fun to pitch against them, but it does suck losing to them.”

Though he was given a 1-0 lead in the sixth thanks to an Austin Meadows RBI single, Snell’s effort was wasted when Toronto pulled ahead with two runs in the seventh, promptly following his removal from the matchup.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash went to the bullpen after only 82 pitches from his ace, citing the team’s plan to closely monitor and manage pitcher workloads. Snell threw 52 of his pitches for strikes, and induced an impressive 19 whiffs.

“Blake threw a tremendous ballgame,” Cash said. “He probably had more in the tank, but I like the way that we have stayed consistent to our thought process coming out of the gate with all of [our pitchers]. The thought is we’re going to benefit from that throughout the season.”

Snell understands the organization’s reasoning, and knows that his early exit on Saturday is about providing longevity as the season wears on.

“I go by the simple fact that I believe in [pitching coach] Kyle Snyder,” Snell said. “And whatever he tells me to do, that’s what I’m going to go with. So I’m going to compete as long as I’m going to compete. My mind doesn’t waver on that. And I trust him, because he’s looking out for what’s best for me. He always has and he always will.”

Snell's outing even impressed Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo.

"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. That's just it." Montoyo said of Snell. "I could give him all kinds of compliments, but he's just one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has all of the good pitches. Good fastball. Good curveball. Good changeup. He's very good."

Entering play on Saturday, Snell had induced swinging strikes on 20.5 percent of his pitches this season, the second-highest rate among Major League starters. He also held the second and third spots among AL pitchers for most swinging strikes in a game this season.

Most swinging strikes in a game by AL pitchers in 2019:
1. Matthew Boyd (DET): 26, April 3 @ NYY
2. Blake Snell: 25, April 2 vs. COL
3. Blake Snell: 24, April 8 @ CHW
4. Justin Verlander (HOU): 23, March 28 @ TB
5-T. Mike Clevinger (CLE): 21, April 7 vs. TOR
5-T. Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS): 21, April 12 vs. BAL

“There’s probably only a handful of guys in baseball that are equipped like Blake is to get those swing and misses at a consistent rate like he does,” Cash said. “There are some other really good ones out there, but you look around the game and there aren’t many 6-foot-5 left-handers that feature four really, really quality pitches.”

Snell extended his scoreless streak at Rogers Centre to 18 2/3 innings, starting with his last inning on Aug. 15, 2017 and continuing with scoreless starts of five innings and 6 2/3 frames in Toronto last year.

With the scoreless start on Saturday, he became just the third visiting pitcher -- excluding openers -- in Rogers Centre history to make three straight scoreless starts in Toronto, joining Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.