D-backs’ Torey Lovullo sees both sides of Rays’ Blake Snell debacle
It was common practice all year for the Tampa Bay Rays to turn to their bullpen the third time around an opponent’s batting order.
But when they did so Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning in a deciding World Series game, it looked like a potential miscue by manager Kevin Cash. Pitcher Blake Snell was cruising with nine strikeouts and just 73 pitches in.
Just after Snell earned one out and then allowed a single, Cash pulled his starter with lots left in the tank. What happened next gave Cash every reason to believe he’d made a mistake.
With one man on, the top of the order was up, and Mookie Betts’ double off Nick Anderson scored the first run of a two-score Dodgers inning. Tampa Bay wouldn’t score again in an eventual 3-1 Game 6 loss that gave the Dodgers the World Series title.
From Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo’s limited perspective, it would’ve taken a lot for him to pull Snell if he were in Cash’s shoes.
That said, Lovullo wouldn’t go as far as putting blame on Cash.
“Look, we’ve had one shot at Blake Snell,” Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf. “He shut us down — not this past year but in ’19 — easily for six or seven innings. I heard comments from our players coming back to the dugout suggesting it’s the best left-handed stuff they’ve ever seen. I’ve got a very high opinion on Blake Snell. Obviously, he’s a Cy Young Award winner, he was dealing.
“But I’m not in that dugout. I’m going to support Kevin Cash in that decision.”
Lovullo’s perspective with Arizona comes down to this: He always weighs what the analytics say and talks through that day’s decisions with Arizona’s front office after games. He called the analytics one more “seasoning that you can add to this unbelievable dish you want to call a victory.”
But situations arise when gut managerial feeling and the numbers don’t match up. Ninety percent of the time, they do.
“Sounds like that third time around is something that’s very slippery for their organization,” Lovullo said of the Rays. “It’s what they believe in. And they’re in the World Series. It definitely worked (to get them there).”
Snell on Tuesday left the game understandably upset considering he’d held the top five players in Los Angeles’ order hitless.
“The hardest thing for me is I was rolling, I was in a groove,” Snell told reporters. “I felt like I had them guessing. It’s just tough for me. It’s going to be tough for me to accept that. I really don’t know to look at it. However you look at it, we lost.”
Anderson was on the mound when Betts’ double started a sequence that led to two quick runs as the Dodgers rallied for a championship-clinching victory in Game 6.
“I totally respect and understand the questions that come with it. Blake gave us every opportunity to win. He was outstanding. They’re not easy decisions. I didn’t want Mookie and (Corey) Seager seeing Blake a third time,” Cash said.
“I guess I regret it because it didn’t work out,” Cash added.
Snell said that, “at the end of the day, I see both sides.”
The Dodgers didn’t want to dive into the “whys” of their opponents’ decision, but they certainly couldn’t hide the fact that it likely helped the outcome in their favor.
“I’m not exactly sure why. I’m not going to ask any questions, but he was pitching a great game,” Betts said of Snell.
“It was kind of like a sigh of relief. Had he stayed in the game, he might have pitched a complete game. It was the Cy Young Snell that pitched tonight.”
Count Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, himself a frequent target for criticism over pulling starters, among those happy to see Snell go.
“Mookie looked at me with a little smile, and we were all just excited that Snell was out of the game,” Roberts said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.