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After Snell deals, Rays rally to win G1 of DH

@juanctoribio
September 17, 2020

With doubleheaders consisting of two seven-inning games this season, Blake Snell mentioned that he was aiming to throw his first career complete game and the first by a Rays pitcher since Matt Andriese on May 14, 2016. Through five innings of the Rays’ 3-1 win over the Orioles in Game

With doubleheaders consisting of two seven-inning games this season, Blake Snell mentioned that he was aiming to throw his first career complete game and the first by a Rays pitcher since Matt Andriese on May 14, 2016.

Through five innings of the Rays’ 3-1 win over the Orioles in Game 1 of Thursday’s twin bill at Camden Yards, it appeared that Snell was well on his way to snapping the team’s 663-game drought without a complete game, the longest in Major League history.

Box score

But after a leadoff walk to Pat Valaika in the sixth, followed by a sacrifice bunt from Andrew Velazquez that moved Valaika into scoring position, Rays manager Kevin Cash opted to go with right-hander Diego Castillo against Hanser Alberto and José Iglesias, taking out Snell, who had thrown just 73 pitches.

“Alberto and Iglesias at the top of their lineup are very good and very contact-oriented guys,” Cash said. “They had seen Blake, that was going to be their third time, wanted to try and get the ball to Diego and told him, ‘You’re going to finish the game.' … We’re confident that was the right move.”

Though Castillo gave up a game-tying Ryan Mountcastle RBI single, part of the reason Cash and the Rays believed the pitching change was the right move is because of the success Alberto and Iglesias have had against lefties this season. Alberto came into Thursday’s game hitting .359 against left-handers this season, while Iglesias was hitting .423 against southpaws this season.

The decision to go with the best matchup isn’t a new concept for Tampa Bay, as Cash pulled Ryan Yarbrough with two outs in the ninth inning last season in a 1-0 win over the Mariners.

“I saw Castillo was up and we had all right-handers coming up,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “[Cash] has a great bullpen, he trusts those guys, and rightfully so.”

As expected, Snell was initially upset with Cash’s decision, but he said that he understood that the team was trying to play the best matchup with Castillo. Snell took the blame for the decision, saying that the leadoff walk was what hurt him.

“That’s honestly the reason why I got pulled,” Snell said. “If I don’t walk that guy, we get him out, then we get [Velazquez] out and then maybe I can finish the sixth. Those are things that I have to do better. I can’t look at Cash for taking me out, I have to look at myself. I put him in that situation to take me out.”

The Rays answered right back in the seventh after the Orioles had tied it. Randy Arozarena drew a leadoff walk and quickly moved to third base on a Michael Perez double.

Tampa Bay has struggled to get big hits over the past few weeks, but Yoshi Tsutsugo delivered a go-ahead RBI groundout and Brandon Lowe added a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 3-1.

“A lot of people played a big role with some big at-bats,” Cash said. “Yoshi puts a ball in play, good thing we had Randy at third with some speed. And then B. Lowe, not trying to do too much, recognizing what the pitcher was trying to do … he stayed on it and hit a deep fly ball to score [Perez].”

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