It’s debatable whether Tampa Bay would have won Tuesday night’s World Series Game 6 against the Dodgers—all the Rays’ offense could muster was a single run, which came on a first-inning solo blast by scorching-hot rookie Randy Arozarena. But Blake Snell’s inexplicably early hook, which came in the midst of a two-hit, nine-strikeout gem, certainly didn’t help matters.
The move wasn’t out of character for manager Kevin Cash, one of the most analytics-driven coaches in baseball, if not all of professional sports. But this time, Cash outsmarted himself with Nick Anderson’s sixth-inning collapse in relief of Snell likely costing the Rays an opportunity to play in a winner-take-all Game 7 Wednesday night at Globe Life Field.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s season-ender, Cash was questioned about his controversial choice to pull his ace at just 73 pitches, an overly daring maneuver that backfired almost instantly. While Cash acknowledged that taking the ball from Snell was difficult, the Rays skipper ultimately defended his decision, believing the former Cy Young winner had given all he had.
“It just felt like, at that point, Blake had given everything that we could have asked for out of him,” said Cash, who ended Snell’s night after the left-hander permitted a one-out single to Austin Barnes in the sixth. “Tough decision, gut-wrenching decision. Nick Anderson’s been arguably the best reliever in baseball the past two years. Wanted him to get through the inning.”
While Cash still believes he made the right call summoning Anderson from the Rays’ bullpen despite his recent struggles (the embattled right-hander finished the playoffs by allowing a run in each of his last seven appearances), the former catcher understands why the Twitter masses would be critical of his decision. “Totally understand the question, the criticism that’s going to come from it, but confident that we had two really good options to choose from,” said Cash in post-game remarks to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Snell, who was noticeably miffed at being lifted in the sixth, said he was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to finish what he started. “I’m definitely disappointed, upset,” an exasperated Snell told reporters after Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat. “I get it, it’s the third time through the order, but I think I’m going to make the adjustments I need to make. I just believe in me.”
The 27-year-old submitted a breathtaking performance through 5 1/3 and appeared to have plenty left, but apparently Cash and his quick trigger-finger felt differently. “For most of that game I was dominating,” said Snell. “I wanted to go that whole game. That was everything I wanted to do. Just burn the tank and see how far I can go.”
Snell’s seemingly premature departure and all the subsequent chaos that resulted from it was a downer way for the Rays to end one of the most memorable seasons in their 22-year franchise history. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. The high-powered Dodgers were arguably due for a title after years of near-misses including World Series losses to the Astros and Red Sox in 2017 and ’18 respectively. But the nagging question of “what if” will surely eat at the Rays—and Snell in particular—for the foreseeable future.