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Snell (9 K's) attacks zone: 'He was awesome'

@adamdberry and @juanctoribio
October 22, 2020

ARLINGTON -- On paper, there might have been some cause for concern heading into Blake Snell's start in Game 2 of the World Series. The Dodgers' lineup, at its best, presents a tough combination of power and patience. Their hitters pound strikes and don't chase balls. Snell, meanwhile, averaged 4.3

ARLINGTON -- On paper, there might have been some cause for concern heading into Blake Snell's start in Game 2 of the World Series.

The Dodgers' lineup, at its best, presents a tough combination of power and patience. Their hitters pound strikes and don't chase balls. Snell, meanwhile, averaged 4.3 pitches per plate appearance, the highest mark for any qualified pitcher, during the regular season. He knew he'd have to challenge the Dodgers and beat them in the strike zone on Wednesday night at Globe Life Field.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 20 LAD 8, TB 3 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 21 TB 6, LAD 4 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 23 LAD 6, TB 2 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 24 TB 8, LAD 7 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 25 LAD 4, TB 2 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 27 LAD 3, TB 1 Watch

Snell came out on top in the end, carrying a no-hit bid into the fifth inning and ultimately allowing only two runs on two hits and four walks while striking out nine over 4 2/3 innings in the Rays' 6-4 win. The left-hander became the first pitcher in World Series history to strike out nine while working fewer than five innings, and he joined Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson as only the third pitcher in World Series history to record at least two strikeouts in four consecutive innings.

Snell didn't want to reveal much about his game plan, in case he has to face the Dodgers later in this Series, but part of it was simple: Make them swing.

"You've got to be in the strike zone to get them to start swinging," Snell said. "They're very, very good -- very professional at-bats. So, just got to be in the strike zone and then you work from there."

For four innings, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner did just that. Snell needed only 10 pitches to get through the first inning -- his lowest pitch count in any first inning this year -- and was attacking the strike zone with all four of his pitches. He cruised into the fifth with a five-run lead and no hits allowed.

"He was outstanding. Blake was really, really good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I know him and [pitching coach] Kyle [Snyder] talked a lot leading into the game about a game plan. He followed it and executed pitches. The slider, from my vantage point, looked like it was a really big weapon for us. He was awesome, gave us everything that we needed."

But it still wasn't necessarily the kind of start Snell wanted.

In the fifth, Snell showed signs of the inconsistencies that have plagued him all season. Chris Taylor ended Snell's no-hit bid with a two-out, two-run homer to cut the Rays' lead to 5-2. A walk and a single later, Cash ran up the dugout steps to pull Snell.

"I think being disciplined with [Snell] -- he mixes all of his pitches in each count, he's not going to give in to you," Taylor said. "I think you kind of battle with him and wait for the mistake."

Nick Anderson took over for Snell and was able to get Justin Turner to strike out swinging to end the threat. Snell set a franchise record with nine strikeouts in a World Series game and became the first pitcher to have six or more strikeouts and no hits through three innings of a World Series game since the D-backs' Randy Johnson in 2001.

Wednesday's start summarized Snell's season perfectly. When on, he's one of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in the Majors. But when he runs into trouble, the pitch count goes up and he isn't able to get deep into games.

"We're trying to win the World Series. I walked two guys in the last three at-bats," Snell said. "I've got to clean that up. I've got to do a better job."

All in all, however, the Rays will certainly take Snell allowing just two runs against a powerful Dodgers lineup that scored eight runs in Game 1 on Tuesday.

Adam Berry covers the Rays for MLB.com and covered the Pirates from 2015-21. Follow him on Twitter @adamdberry.

Juan Toribio covers the Dodgers for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.