Rays Play Small Ball in Win Over Cubs, Snell Excels

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

The home run has played a major part in the Tampa Bay Rays offense this season, however in their win over the Cubs on Wednesday night, they played small ball and it proved to be one of the deciding factors.

Getting back to and doing the “little things” is what manager Kevin Cash said following the game that the Tampa Bay Rays need to do more often. Those little things were clear in the Rays 8-1 win over the Chicago Cubs as timely hitting, excelling on the base paths, nifty defense and executing the bunt provided the key ingredients to this very important win.

Although the play of small ball was key in the win, the tip of the hat goes to starter Blake Snell who has turned his season around, albeit rather later than sooner. Snell pitched a magnificent game, lasting seven innings in which he allowed no runs on two hits with four strikeouts and three walks to pick up his fourth win.

“Blake was outstanding,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Really, really threw the ball well. Good environment for him to pitch in. He needed to come perform well against a very good team. And he did.”

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If Snell would have pitched like he did against the Cubs on Wednesday night throughout the season, the Rays may not be in the predicament they are in – instead a postseason berth may have already been locked up.

“He’s turned his season around,” Cash said. “I don’t know if any of us would have thought from where he started (0-4 in eight starts before being sent to the minors) that he was going to be capable of doing what he’s done now.”

In Snell’s last seven starts, he is 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA (42.2-IP) with 37 strikeouts and 12 walks, while holding opposing batters to a .200 average; he has given up just three home runs and he has pitched six or more innings in five of the seven starts.

The Rays PR Department offered more on Snell, that he has not allowed an earned run in three of his last six starts and extended his career-long unbeaten streak to 10 games, which is the longest by a Ray since Drew Smyly went 11 starts in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Rays who have had problems against lefties going 17-28 on the season struck gold against Cubs starter Jon Lester who allowed seven runs on eight hits in just 4.1 innings.

Steven Souza Jr. got the offense going in the first inning when he smashed his 30th home run of the season, becoming just the eighth player in club history with a 30-homer season. The home run was his first since Aug. 30 and it snapped a 0-for-23 skid.

"“It was awesome. To hit 30 homers in a season, I’m super thankful. Thank God for allowing me to play a full, healthy season and everybody behind me that hit all year. It’s an awesome feeling. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would do that.” – Steven Souza Jr."

On the base paths, Souza Jr. stole two bases, tying a career high and it also marked the sixth game this season this season with a steal and home run, which is most in the majors. This feat also tied Carl Crawford (2007) for the most such games in a single season in franchise history. (Provided from the post-game media conference by the Rays PR Department )

With 10 games remaining, Souza Jr. needs four stolen bases to join Melvin (B.J.) Upton as the only Ray with a 20/20 season. Additionally, his 30 homers and 15 stolen bases is a first in Rays history and he joins Paul Goldschmidt and Brian Dozier as the only other players in the majors matching this combination. (Provided from the post-game media conference by the Rays PR Department )

In the second, the Rays added to their lead as Brad Miller came through with runners on first second with an RBI single. This set the stage for Peter Bourjos who laid down a perfect squeeze bunt with runners on the corners to score another run and the scoring would continue as Kevin Kiermaier added an RBI single, giving the Rays a 4-0 lead.

“It was perfectly done, said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. We were ready for it but the bunt was so perfect. That’s [Don Zimmer] right there, man… But they ran it right, everything was in place and [Peter] Bourjos is such a good bunter. We knew it was coming but you can’t stop it sometimes.”

The Rays would tack on three more runs in fifth, aided by Souza Jr’s. two stolen bases along with Wilson Ramos and his single that scored two. Logan Morrison would come across the plate on a passed ball and when it was all said and the done, the Rays lead increased to 7-0.

Wilson Ramos added three hits, which tied a season high and two RBIs. Since Aug. 15, Ramos has been on a tear at the plate batting .341 (30-for-88) with five home runs and 12 RBIs raising his average from .175 to .251.

The Rays would add their eighth and final run in the bottom of the eighth as Evan Longoria singled to score Bourjos.

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While the Rays snapped the Cubs season-high seven game winning streak, the Rays need to start a winning streak of their own as they continue to hang tough for the second AL Wild Card spot.

The four game series against Baltimore (73-80), which begins tonight, could make it or break for the Rays as they can gain major ground, especially via a sweep.

On the other hand, they will be scoreboard watching and hoping for some valuable assists from Cleveland who will face the Angels, the Blue Jays as they host the Royals and Detroit who take on the Twins. Texas and Seattle will be pounding it out against each other.

In regards to the Wild Card and the Rays… Baltimore has lost three straight and is 1.5 games behind the Rays in the AL East standings and 5.5 games back in the Wild Card Standings.

Minnesota has lost three straight games, and hold a 1.5 game advantage over the Angels for the second Wild Card – while the Rays are tied with Seattle at four games back and a half game back of Kansas City who are 3.5 games back.

Next: Rays Season a Success No Matter the End Result

As the late great  Yogi Berra often said, “It ain’t over until it’s over,” and in the case of the Rays it ain’t over until it’s over and that ain’t yet.