Tampa Bay Rays: Better Late Than Never for Blake Snell

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 20: Pitcher Blake Snell (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 20: Pitcher Blake Snell (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

It may have taken the majority of the season for Blake Snell to pitch like the Tampa Bay Rays envisioned, but it is better late than never especially with their post-season hopes on the line.

With each passing day, goes another game and unfortunately more losses than wins at a time when winning is very important if the Tampa Bay Rays have any intentions of returning to the post-season.

Two important pieces to the success of the Rays shinned brightly this past weekend as Kevin Kiermaier returned for his defensive prowess and his spark to the lineup plus the real Blake Snell to the rotation who finally showed confidence and command on the mound.

Having Kiermaier back is a big boost defensively but he also showed what he is offensively capable of doing which was evident by his 6-for-15 performance in three games against the Mariners.

More from Rays News

Right out of the gate after missing 61 games, Kiermaier didn’t miss a beat when he turned a single into a double in the sixth inning that would eventually turn into scoring the Rays lone run in their 7-1 loss on Friday night.

However, the shining star of the weekend belonged to Blake Snell who on Sunday pitched just like the Rays had envisioned heading into the 2017 campaign.

Cool, calm and collective is what Snell looked and showed in his start against the Mariners, picking up his second consecutive win in what may have become a lost season if not for his recent turn-around.

“Yeah, I wish it would have come together a lot sooner,” Snell said. “But I feel really good about where I’m at right now. I just have to keep working to get better.”

More from Rays News

Snell was dominate, something that was vastly missing in all of his previous 16 starts at the major league level. If there was ever a time for Snell to get back on track, it is now.  What he showed in the 3-0 Rays win was a veteran type performance allowing just two hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in seven scoreless innings.

After giving up a lead-off single to Nelson Cruz in the second inning, Snell would retire the next 12 batters before giving up a one-out single to Robinson Cano in the seventh inning. However, what mattered the most was how Snell handled the situation following Cano’s hit.

Ray’s killer Nelson Cruz, who had taken Ray’s pitchers deep in Friday and Saturday’s game, followed Cano. Snell would get Cruz to chase a pitch for a swinging strikeout for the second out, but would then walk the next batter Mitch Haniger to put runners on first and second to pitch to ex-Ray Taylor Motter. Snell would get Motter to ground out to Evan Longoria for the third out, ending the Mariners threat and Snell’s day.

"“I’ve seen Blake phenomenal and I’ve seen Blake bad. When he has the stuff like he did tonight, he’s a pretty good pitcher,” said former teammate Taylor Motter."

Since Snell’s most recent call up on Aug. 3, he has made four starts going 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA with 21 strikeouts and 6 walks in 23.1 innings pitched. However, in his last two starts he is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA with 12 strikeouts and just three walks in 13 innings pitched.

The biggest improvement for Snell has been the command of his pitches, specifically in his last two starts where has dominated with his changeup and curveball. Although his fastball is his main pitch, the use of the pitch has dropped significantly since the start of the season, but more so in the last month from 61.4 percent to 50.84 percent.

“I think Blake felt really good with his stuff. … Threw a couple of sliders early that were good. The curveball was kind of the weapon that came out today. The fastball-changeup generally is always there. But the curveball was a pitch that he put guys away with and got some chase today with,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “The biggest adjustment Blake has made is his intent with the fastball,” Cash said. “And driving the fastball in the zone.”

Next: Rays Looking Forward to MLB’s Players Weekend

It is better late than never especially during this crucial time of the season that Blake Snell has finally turned his season around where he could be an essential key to a post-season return.