NEW YORK (AP) Tampa Bay's Blake Snell and Wilson Ramos are hoping they both get selected to the American League All-Star team. Saturday afternoon's performance at Citi Field may have strengthened the batterymates' chances.
''I'd be pumped,'' Snell said about the possibility of playing in the Midsummer Classic. ''I'd be stoked.''
A late afternoon start under clear blue skies featured two young left-handers at the top of their game in recent weeks, both successfully dodging a slew of baserunners early.
Ranked among the league leaders in several categories, the 25-year-old Snell was as advertised- keeping the Mets off the board despite allowing the leadoff runner to reach in six out of eight frames including each of the first four.
Snell (12-4) struck out nine, scattering six hits and three walks while lowering his AL-leading ERA to 2.09.
''Blake has been tremendous for us. He's been the workhorse.'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. ''We're talking about a potential All-Star candidate.''
The lanky lefty has yielded two runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts and is 4-0 with an 0.63 ERA over his last four outings, two against the Astros.
''He deserves to be in the All-Star Game because he's had an awesome year,'' Ramos said of the Rays starter. ''There's nothing better than being with your teammates in the All-Star Game.''
The feeling is mutual.
''He needs to go,'' Snell said, rallying for his backstop. ''It would be even cooler if I did go and pitch to him. I think that would be special for the both of us.''
After being held scoreless in 34 of their previous 36 innings, Tampa Bay finally broke through in the fifth. Matt Duffy lined a leadoff double down the right-field line, the fourth two-bagger surrendered by Mets starter Steven Matz to that point, advancing to third on a groundout.
Ramos followed with a sharp grounder to shortstop. A charging Amed Rosario booted the ball before recovering and throwing to first for the out. With Duffy running on contact, Rosario likely would have cut down the run at home had he fielded the ball cleanly. Instead, the Rays took a 1-0 lead.
''He just came in on it hard,'' Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. ''He looked up just to see where the runner was and it hit off his heel.''
Matz (4-6) continued his recent surge, charged with one run on five hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings- striking out five. The Long Island native has allowed four earned runs across his last three starts, a span of 18 2/3 innings.
He escaped trouble early by getting Adeiny Hechavarria to fly out, ending a bases-loaded threat in the first. The Rays left seven men on in the first four innings and were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position during that stretch.
''I get in situations throughout the game where I can crumble,'' Matz said. ''But I think just realizing what I've got to do out there, and just the task at hand, has really helped.''
Tampa Bay was 2 for 25 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, stranding a total of 18.
The Rays added some insurance in the eighth on a bloop single by former Met Carlos Gomez, scoring Daniel Robertson. Ramos singled home a run in the ninth.
Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless ninth for his ninth save in 13 chances.
Neither Snell nor Matz had faced the opposing team before.
Jose Bautista was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts after hitting a game-ending grand slam in the series opener Friday night.
Both starting third basemen lost the grip on their bats an inning apart. Todd Frazier swung at a fastball in the bottom of the fourth, fouling it off and also sending his bat deep into foul territory down the third base line. Duffy had a similar experience in the fifth, letting go of his lumber and causing it to fly towards the Rays' on-deck circle.
The Rays had a brief scare in the second when Snell's pitching hand was grazed by a 92-mph sinker. The southpaw took his base and did not appear to be in pain.
''I'm happy that it didn't really hit me hard,'' Snell said.
Rays: Rookie infielder Willy Adames was scratched from the starting lineup. ''He's just under the weather,'' Cash said. ''He was battling a bug last night and I think he woke up this morning a little bit worse.'' ... RHP Jake Faria (strained left oblique) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with high-A Charlotte Saturday night. ... INF Christian Arroyo (strained left oblique) could play for Charlotte on Monday but the club is not fully committed to that plan, according to Cash.
Mets: LF Yoenis Cespedes (right hip) is continuing baseball activities including running straight sprints, although he has yet to begin turning the bases to simulate a double. ''Trying to figure out that schedule as we go along,'' said Callaway about when his club's top slugger might play in a rehab game. ''All that's going to be based on how he bounces back day-to-day.''
Rays: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (2-3, 3.92 ERA) pitches in the rubber game on Sunday. He has allowed just two runs over his last two starts, a span of twelve innings in which he fanned 14 batters.
Mets: RHP Chris Flexen (0-1, 10.80 ERA in 3 relief appearances) will make his first start of the season.
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