Lights-out Snell pulled in 6th; Dodgers take lead

    Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash’s decision to pull starter Blake Snell in the sixth inning of Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night might be one that’ll be questioned for a long time.

With the Rays leading 1-0, Snell was throwing arguably his best game of the season, as he had struck out nine Los Angeles Dodgers hitters in just 5⅓ innings while giving up just two hits.

To the dismay of many, his second hit allowed — to catcher Austin Barnes with one out in the sixth — brought Cash to the mound. Cash opted for reliever Nick Anderson, who promptly gave up a double, a game-tying wild pitch and then an RBI groundout, putting the Rays behind in the game for the first time, 2-1.

Cash had forecast the early hook on Monday’s off day.

“We’re going to get aggressive tomorrow,” Cash said on a Zoom call with reporters. “If we can get a lead and limit them, we have some of the big guys in the back end of the bullpen that are ready to go. That’s kind of our M.O. Just continuing to give different looks. Consistently being inconsistent with the looks that we’re giving opposing lineups. And more than anything with this Dodgers lineup, just not allowing them to see repeated at-bats.”

That was said 24 hours before Snell took the mound and before he struck out Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner two times each. Those three hitters were due up when Snell was pulled.

“You do it a little differently in the postseason,” Cash continued on Monday. “You’re a little more aggressive. I give our starters a ton of credit; they’re really good. That’s a little bit of our strategy. To get a lead, get aggressive and limit whatever offense is out there.”

Snell has now gone a major-league-longest 21 straight starts without completing six innings, including in every outing this season.

He is just the second starting pitcher over the past 20 postseasons to be pulled from a game before reaching 75 pitches when he had at least nine strikeouts. CC Sabathia was pulled from Game 5 of the 2017 American League Division Series at 69 pitches in the fifth inning, but unlike Snell, Sabathia had just allowed consecutive run-scoring hits.

The Rays trail 3-2 in the Series.

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