Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell going through a Cy Young hangover

Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell struggled again on Tuesday in a 9-4 Rays loss in Minnesota

Tampa Bay Rays’ starting pitcher Blake Snell continues to look nothing like the pitcher who won the Cy Young Award last season.

Snell gave up seven earned runs in just 3.1 innings against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Tuesday, taking the loss as the Rays fell to the AL Central leaders 9-4. In five starts in June, the 26-year-old left-hander now has an ERA of 12.11. A year after leading the American League with a 1.89 ERA and winning 21 games, Snell is just 4-7 this season and ranks 75th out of 82 qualified starters with a 5.01 ERA.

It’s been a rough past few starts for Snell. Last Wednesday against the New York Yankees, he lasted just a third of an inning while walking four and giving up six earned runs. Facing the powerful Twins lineup on Tuesday, he gave up a home run on a 0-2 curveball to Jonathan Schoop to lead off the bottom of the third inning and left with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, the Rays trailing 6-0.

Despite his recent struggles, though, Snell’s numbers are remarkably similar to his Cy Young season from a year ago. His strikeout per nine innings rate is actually higher this year than in 2018, up from 11.01 to 11.96. The percentage of hard-hit balls he gives up is down from 35.7 percent to 33.7 percent.

What’s changed is that this year hitters are finding the holes that weren’t there last season. The opposition is hitting .357 on batted balls this year, a significant jump from .241 a season ago. Snell is also relying more on his curveball this year, his fastball usage down by nearly 10 points while his curveball rate is up eight points. When he does throw his fastball, hitters are batting .291 against it, up from .221. He’s also surrendered five home runs on curveballs this season, including Schoop’s on Tuesday, after giving up just one in his career prior to 2019.

Amidst all of his disappointing starts, Snell continues to insist he’s pitching well and will turn a corner on the season soon.

“Everything was working,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “I felt really good. I can’t lie, I really do feel good. Result-wise, yeah, it sucks. But, I mean, a bunch of jam shots, Schoop hits a home run on a good pitch. Like, gotta tip your cap to that…I can’t be too hard on myself.”

With the declining production from the ace of their pitching staff, the Rays have now dropped seven of their last 10 games and are just 10-14 in June, falling to six games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.

“It’s frustrating from a results standpoint, but with the way I feel I’m very confident that good is going to come around,” Snell said.

The Rays better hope he’s right if they hope to keep pace with the Yankees as they look forward to the second half of the season.

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