ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Blake Snell’s bid for a perfect game was over even before the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed a two-out single in the sixth inning of Tampa Bay’s 12-1 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night.
Losing the no-hitter merely made it easier for Rays manager Kevin Cash to pull the plug on his ace’s best outing of the season.
“I need to send a case of beer over to the guy who got the hit,” Cash said after Ildemaro Vargas’ sharp grounder through the hole between shortstop and third base ended the suspense.
Cash insisted that even if the 26-year-old left-hander had retired Vargas, he already had made up his mind Snell wasn’t going back out to the mound for the seventh.
“You’ve always got to keep in mind what the big goal is here, and that’s keeping all of our good players as healthy as possible,” Cash said.
Snell (3-3) rebounded from allowing a career-high seven runs over three innings of an 8-2 loss at Kansas City last week to strike out nine before giving up the hit to Vargas on his 70th pitch.
“It was a changeup and he just hit it,” Snell said. “The sixth inning was really the only inning I started thinking about it. It was a cool experience to have, but now I need to stop thinking about it and move on.”
Snell hit the next batter with a pitch before getting Tim Locastro on a groundout that ended his night.
“It was pretty dominant stuff,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We have a very, very offensive team, and he kept them checked.”
Chaz Roe relieved to start the seventh and Casey Sadler allowed an unearned run in the ninth to finish a two-hitter before 8,124, the lowest crowd at Tropicana Field since September 2017.
Pham’s grand slam off Merrill Kelly (3-3) finished a five-run second inning that put the AL East leaders up 6-0. Daniel Robertson and Avisail Garcia drove in three runs apiece for the Rays, who have the best record in the majors.
Kelly, a 30-year-old rookie who began his pro career in the Rays organization, allowed seven runs and seven hits in four innings.
Before Vargas broke up the perfect game on a 1-0 pitch, the closest the Diamondbacks came to getting a hit was John Ryan Murphy’s third-inning line drive that Robertson, the Tampa Bay shortstop, snared with a leaping catch.
Arizona’s Christian Walker worked the count to 3-2 with one out in the fifth before taking a third called strike.
“He did exactly what he wanted to do,” Walker said. “The curveball is what he’s got. The heater, if you’re on it, you can at least foul back. He didn’t throw many heaters by us. There was a lot of curveballs, a lot of bounced curveballs and a lot of take for third strike.”
Garcia had a two-run homer off Murphy, the Arizona catcher who pitched the eighth inning for the Diamondbacks.
Diamondbacks: RHP Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery last April) threw four innings in an extended spring training game, allowing two earned runs and three hits while striking out four. … C Alex Avila (left quadriceps strain) caught Walker’s 47 pitches and went 1 for 3 at the plate. The Diamondbacks have yet to determine whether Avila will need a minor league rehab assignment.
Rays: RF Austin Meadows (sprained right thumb) went through a full workout and hopes to start a minor league rehab assignment this week. … Manager Kevin Cash said Matt Duffy’s rehab assignment with Class A Charlotte for back and left hamstring injuries has been stopped because the third baseman “doesn’t quite feel 100 percent.” Cash is hopeful that a date for when Duffy will resume the assignment can be made in the near future.
FIRST WIN IN A MONTH
Snell made his third start since returning from a stint on the injured list with a broken toe on his right foot. He won for the first time since beating the White Sox in Chicago on April 8. The Rays improved to 3-4 in games started by the 2018 Cy Young winner, compared to 19-8 in games started by all other pitchers.
Rookie Taylor Clarke makes his first major league start for the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. He earned a save in his only other big league appearance, pitching three scoreless innings against the Cubs on April 20. The Rays will send opener Ryne Stanek to the mound first.
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