Snell starts strong, runs into trouble in 5th

Snell starts strong, runs into trouble in 5th

NEW YORK -- Blake Snell appeared to be on cruise control when he took the mound in the fifth inning of the Rays' eventual 8-4 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday.

The Rays' lefty had four scoreless innings in the rearview mirror. From the looks of things, he was well on his way to making everyone forget his familiar pattern of a lot of walks and an early hook.

Entering the game, Snell had only thrown 36.9 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, according to Statcast™. That ranked Snell in the bottom 20 percent of pitchers who have thrown at least 1,500 pitches since the start of 2016 (30th of 156).

But he had only allowed one walk, and just one hit heading into the fifth. And the offense had gifted him a 3-0 lead.

"I felt like everything was coming out good," Snell said.

Then Chase Headley singled to open the fifth and Snell followed by walking Aaron Judge. Snell could have used a little help at this point. He didn't get it.

Kyle Higashioka hit a ball to Tim Beckham. The Rays' shortstop tried to backhand the ball and booted it to load the bases.

Snell fought back, retiring Pete Kozma and Jacoby Ellsbury on popouts, giving Snell the look of a guy who might be experiencing a growth moment.

Alas, one step forward, two steps back.

Snell walked the next batter, Aaron Hicks, to force home the Yankees' first run, and that brought the familiar early hook for Snell after 4 2/3 innings.

"He fell behind to Headley, 3-2, and he gets the base hit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He walks a guy. Then a play at short we'd like to convert into an out at third. His pitch count really drove up. I think he threw 30 pitches in that inning.

"At the time, he was being efficient, and then the Hicks at-bat, he battled every way he could, and it looked like he just yanked a slider [on ball four]."

Snell said he tried to do "too much" on the slider to Hicks and that he should have stuck to "what he'd been doing the whole game."

"Frustrated with that, but I'm going to learn from it," Snell said.

Cash elected to bring in Jumbo Diaz after Hicks walked.

"I look back on it, I threw 30-something pitches in that inning," Snell said. "But I knew why I came out. I should have executed better."

Snell hasn't lasted at least five innings in his last six road starts (since Aug. 10).

The Yankees added a second run in the fifth on a Diaz wild pitch. Then they scored four in the sixth and put the game on ice.

"It's coming from different places each and every day," Headley said. "I really like some of the things we're doing right now in the lineup as a whole."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.