Cash's Decision To Pull Snell In The 6th

They value their process.

Jim Rome
October 28, 2020 - 10:59 am
Kevin Cash and Blake Snell

USA Today

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When Kevin Cash handed the ball to Blake Snell to start Game 6, it was a great idea. When Kevin Cash took the ball from Blake Snell in the sixth inning of Game 6, it was a terrible idea.

Because what happened in between was absolutely filthy; in the best way imaginable. The Rays could not have gotten off to a better start when Randy Arozarena went yard in the top of the first.

That was followed by a single and a walk and at that point, it felt like Tony Gonsolin was already eating punches and was going to get knocked the hell out. Already giving up a home run, runners on first and second with one out, that game felt like it was going to be blown wide open before the first inning ended. That had all the hallmarks of a 10-3 win for the Rays and a Game 7 tonight.

Except somehow, Gonsolin managed to get out of the inning with only one run on the board. But that one run seemed massive when Blake Snell was on the mound. Because Snell didn’t just keep the Dodgers from scoring, he had them absolutely locked up. He was just toying with them. He was disgusting. Or as Cody Bellinger said after the game, quote, GROSS. 

First inning: strikeout, strikeout, strikeout. Mookie Betts on five pitches. Corey Seager on three. Justin Turner on four.

Second inning: Ground out, strikeout, strikeout.

Fourth inning: strikeout, strikeout, strikeout.

Another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. And then came the sixth inning. Snell got AJ Pollock on a pop out, then Austin Barnes singled to center.

And then came a moment that will go down in Rays history and World Series history, Kevin Cash pulling Snell. 

The moment Cash moved in the dugout, before he even left the dugout, you knew what was going to happen. So did Snell, because his reaction shot was a massive expletive.

Kevin Cash wasn’t coming to talk to Snell, he was coming to take him out. Blake Snell struck out nine through 5 1/3 innings in a must-win game and Cash pulled him after the second hit.

And it’s not like he was laboring. He had thrown 73 pitches to that point. 73 and done. But that’s who Tampa Bay is; that’s what Tampa bay does. That’s where Tampa Bay lives. That’s why Tampa Bay was even in Game 6 of the World Series: that’s their bleeping deal:

Kevin Cash came to get Charlie Morton in Game 7 of the ALCS and afterwards, he said: "Third time through, we value that, we value our process.”

Man, no one values anything like the Rays value their process. And it’s true: It’s what got them there. And it’s what ended their season.

You knew they were going to stick to their process just as you knew that process was going to crush them the moment Cash came for Snell. It’s almost like he offended the baseball gods by doing that. It’s almost like Cash and the Rays crossed a line last night, and spit in the face  of every dominant ace in a postseason game, and it came back to bite them in the ass. Not to go all Boomer on your ass, but imagine Cash coming out to the bump to take the ball from Bob Gibson in a World Series game: like you know the rules, Bob! Third time through the lineup! Process, Bob! Process! Gibson would break his manager’s face before he’d let him take the ball in that moment. Absolutely times change: the game has changed. Dramatically. But you know as much as Snell likes and respect Cash, eh wanted to give him the hands and not the ball. 

Because you don’t take out a pitcher who’s that dominant in that big a moment. The process works, don’t get me wrong. But last night was a time to deviate from the process. Of course, they would tell the point of the process is that you don’t deviate from it.

You can rant at Cash and the Rays all you want about how computers and analytics are ruining the game and that there needs to be space for gut instinct. And they’ll nod and say they understand what you’re saying and then they’ll stick to their process.

They do not want opposing hitters seeing their pitchers for a third time. And they’ve got the numbers and the computers and Ivy League nerds to back it up. And clearly, it doesn’t matter how well the pitcher is doing against those hitters, because in this case, Snell could not have been better.

Betts, Seager, and Turner were a combined 0 for 6 with six strikeouts at that point against Snell. They had no answers for him.

But as Cash said: "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. ... Didn't want Mookie or Seager seeing Blake a third time. There was no set plan. As much as people think, there's no set plan."

I get the first part, but come on with the second part, there was a set plan. We know that. The plan is that you don’t want guys seeing your guys for a third at-bat.

And if there really is no set plan, that makes the decision even worse. If there was no set plan, that was some terrible improvisation.

Because he didn’t just take out Snell, he brought in a right hander to face Betts. For the record, Betts struggled against lefties this year, but eats up righties.

And not only did you bring in a righty to face Betts, but you brought in one who had given up a run in six straight appearances. I know Nick Anderson was a beast in the regular season, but in the postseason, he’s been meat.

No wonder the Dodgers were partying in the dugout. Kevin Cash made their night. As Betts said: "Man, it was kind of like a sigh of relief. Had he stayed in the game, he might have pitched a complete game. I don't know what would have happened, but he was rolling. He was pitching really, really well. That was the Cy Young that came tonight. Once he came out of the game, it was like a breath of fresh air."

In other words, the Dodgers were just about ready to send Cash a bottle of crystal: …hell a World Series ring… as a thank you gift.

Dave Roberts said: "I was pretty happy because he was dominating us, and we just weren't seeing him. We were all kind of excited that Snell was out of the game."

And Roberts mentioned that Betts looked over at him and smiled when the move was made. No wonder, because Betts laced a double when he got up and by the time the inning was over, the game was over.  

Here’s the other part of Cash’s decision. Yes, he’s going to take a ton of heat for it. He knows it. But here’s the other thing: the Tampa Bay Rays scored one run last night. After that first inning where they threatened to blow it open, they didn’t do much at all.

I don’t care how good Nick Anderson would’ve been, you aren’t beating the Dodgers game scoring just one run.

Cash and the Rays live by the process and die by the process. And last night, they died in the worst way possible. The process got them there, and then the process got them beaten. Period.