Preview: All-Star Blake Snell returns to the mound aiming to even series with White Sox
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 5:30 p.m.
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays have nearly been without a true starting pitcher since dealing Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates at this week's trade deadline. That will change, mercifully, on Saturday as All-Star pitcher Blake Snell returns from the disabled list.
Snell (12-5, 2.27 ERA) hasn't pitched since July 12, sidelined by left shoulder fatigue. The Rays have gotten by with their continued experimental use of relievers as "starters," and the strategy has worked well enough to have them at 56-54.
But Chicago ended Tampa Bay's three-game win streak by defeating the Rays 3-2 in 10 innings on Friday night.
Snell's last outing before going on the disabled list saw him last only three innings, giving up five hits and three earned runs. But in his previous four starts, he had allowed just two earned runs in 28 2/3 innings, with a 0.63 ERA in those games that essentially clinched his first career All-Star appearance.
Saturday will be Snell's 21st start of the season. He is 6-1 with a 0.87 ERA at Tropicana Field this season.
Snell has fared well against the White Sox -- he faced them on April 10 and got his first win of the season, lasting six innings and allowing only one hit and one run with 10 strikeouts, albeit five walks. In his career, he has faced Chicago three times, with a 2-0 record and a 0.59 ERA, allowing just one earned run in 15 1/3 innings.
The White Sox will counter with another young lefty in Carlos Rodon, who missed the first two months of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Rodon (3-3, 3.24 ERA) has been sharp in his nine starts since returning in June, and he comes in with four straight quality starts, allowing two runs or less in each and lowering his season ERA from 4.55 to 3.24 along the way.
He has faced the Rays twice before with no decisions and a 5.19 ERA, including a four-inning start last season in which he gave up only two hits and one run.
Tampa Bay has struggled in low-scoring games -- Friday was the 18th time this season they lost while allowing three runs or less, the most such losses in the majors.
"The part you really like is they find a way to make it interesting, get there and ultimately tie the game and get us to extra innings," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We just came up a hair short."
Chicago came in Friday with the second worst staff ERA in the majors, and starter Lucas Giolito had the highest ERA of any qualifying pitcher. But he pitched extremely well, holding the Rays to one hit and no run in the first seven innings, giving up a double that would score in the eighth.
For the White Sox to get back to meaningful, relevant baseball again, their pitching will have to improve, and a healthy Rodon pitching as he has of late is a major step in that direction.
"He's got good enough stuff. He's been continuing to edge forward," White Sox manager Rick Renteria told the Chicago Tribune. "He really looks free and easy out there. I mean, he looks very, very comfortable. He's been giving us some good outings. He's another young man that, as he's continuing to evolve, has become a little bit more efficient. We hope that efficiency remains there."