The top spot in the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation has been an open space and rather undefinable most of this season, but Blake Snell looks like he’s intent on claiming it.
The 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, Snell (3-0, 3.14 ERA) has continued to pitch better as his pitch-count has increased. The Rays, owners of the AL’s best record at 27-12, would love to see the left-hander be at peak form down the stretch and into the postseason.
A winner of three of his last four starts — most recently beating the Marlins (16-17)on Sunday in Miami — Snell will look to stay unblemished when he starts the middle game of the three-game series against the Rays’ in-state National League counterpart Saturday night in St. Petersburg.
Snell worked five innings and allowed two runs on four hits — two of them homers by Corey Dickerson and Lewis Brinson — in a 75-pitch outing Sunday as the Rays easily defeated Miami 12-7 to complete the series sweep down in Marlins Park.
In his only other start against Miami on May 3, 2017, Snell also gave up two runs in five innings and received a no-decision, but the visiting Marlins beat Tampa Bay 10-6.
Regular No. 1 starter Charlie Morton returned from the injured list and tossed two-plus innings Wednesday night against the Yankees and won’t face the Marlins this weekend. The 2019 All-Star, who threw just 36 pitches in the Bronx, is restarting his game routine and will need to build up his number of pitches.
The bullpen was the star on Friday as four relievers combined for four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six as the Rays won 5-4 and improved to 21-4 in their last 25 contests.
In his first game since Aug. 19, Nick Anderson came in to close it out but walked the leadoff batter and saw another reach base on a fielding error. But he got a fielder’s choice and a pop out before fanning Jon Berti on a borderline fastball for his fourth save.
“Nick’s pretty special,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, who was back in the dugout after serving a one-game suspension for sharp criticism of the Yankees following Tuesday’s loss in the Bronx. “He put himself in a little bit of a jam … but (Nick) just stays so level. We’re lucky to have him.”
The Rays won for just the fifth time this season when being outhit, and they moved to 9-3 in one-run games and 6-2 in interleague play.
Miami’s Miguel Rojas was named the organization’s nomination to receive the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given out annually to the player who best represents the game through his extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions to his club and community.
Rojas, who is hitting .327, spends time with area students in underserved communities in South Florida.
“He kind of fits all the criteria,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Rojas, who 0-for-3 with a walk Friday. “He’s great for our clubhouse as far as his leadership and produces on the field and is involved with the community in South Florida. He’s the perfect guy to represent our club.
“I’ve watched Miggy grow up and just grow into his role. It’s good to see, and you want a guy like this representing our organization.”
Miami will send out right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who was rocked Sunday for eight runs (five earned) and six hits in four innings in just his second start this season and first ever against the Rays.
Alcantara (1-1, 5.06) went five weeks between starts and was activated last Sunday off the COVID-19 injured list.
–Field Level Media