Slumping Snell feels good despite tough June


MINNEAPOLIS — Reigning American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell was knocked out in the fourth inning of the Tampa Bay Rays‘ 9-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, the third straight outing in which the ace lefty has failed to get past the third inning.

The good news according to Snell was that the quality of his pitches just fine, even if the final numbers didn’t align with his stuff.

“Everything was working,” Snell said. “I felt really good. I can’t lie. I really do feel good. Result-wise, yeah, it sucks, but (there were) a bunch of jam shots, (Jonathan) Schoop hits a home run on a good pitch, so you have to tip your cap to that. But not a lot of hard contact. I can’t be too hard on myself. I’ve been hard on myself (before).”

The bad outing deepened Snell’s recent slump, which has come at a bad time for the Rays. Snell lasted only 1/3 inning in his last start, a loss to the Yankees on June 19, and 3 1/3 innings the start before that, a no-decision against the Angels. It’s been a rough month for Snell, who now has a 11.94 ERA to show for his five June starts.

Still, on Tuesday, Snell was touching 95 to 97 miles per hour with his fastball, in line with his normal velocity.

“I liked the way I used the fastball,” Snell said. “Their swings were late. So I kept throwing fastballs. Then they got a bunch of hits that, I mean, just went their way. They are a very good lineup, a very good team. But I’m happy with the way I pitched. I’m happy with everything I did except for the outcome.”

The Twins went down in order in the first before the trouble began for Snell. He allowed a run on two hits in the second and three runs on five hits in the third. He then gave up three more runs on four more hits before being pulled.

“He’s giving up hits,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He generally limits hits and hard-hit balls. Today, encouraged that he got the ball in the zone, but there were (five) two-strike hits. That’s very uncharacteristic.”

The shaky outing came a day after breakout righty Tyler Glasnow suffered a setback in his return from a forearm strain. Glasnow underwent an MRI, which confirmed a strained flexor tendon, and the Rays decided to shut him down for three or four weeks, manager Kevin Cash said before Tuesday game.

Glasnow was 6-1 with a 1.86 when he went down in mid-May. Tampa Bay is also missing relievers Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado, as well as rotation prospect Brent Honeywell, who is out for the season with fractured elbow.

Snell, 26, led the AL in wins (21) and ERA (1.89) in becoming the second Tampa Bay pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in franchise history. He began this season well, posting a 3.06 ERA over his first 11 outings. Snell’s ERA has risen to 5.01 with his June swoon.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself,” Snell said. “You have to continue to know that what you’re doing is the right thing. I mean, I had very good results last year. Very good results. I think people think I’m crazy if I tell them I feel better right now than I did last year. And I really do. But it’s frustrating.”

With the loss, the Rays’ edge over the third-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East was cut to just two games. Tampa Bay has dropped seven of 10, as the cluster of teams angling for the AL wild card slots, a group that includes Boston, Cleveland, Texas and Oakland, has closed in behind them.

The Rays trail the division-leading Yankees by a season-high six games. Clearly, it would behoove Snell and club if he reverted to form sooner than later.

“We know they are a good-hitting team, but you scratch your head a little bit about Blake and his struggles right now,” Cash said. “They’re there, so we have to do everything we can to help him get out it.”

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