When the San Diego Padres traded for Blake Snell two years ago, he was coming off leading the Tampa Bay Rays to their second World Series appearance.
During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Snell recorded a 3.24 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, 63 strikeouts in 50 innings and held opposing batters to a .228 average in 11 starts.
The Padres didn’t get that Snell last year and weren’t getting it in the beginning of this year. However, the version of Snell they’re getting now is much better than even before the trade. Since the All-Star Game, Snell has posted a 2.42 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 67 innings over 12 starts. He’s also holding opposing batters to a .224 average.
This is the best Snell has pitched since winning the American League Cy Young award in 2018.
“That’s got to be some of the best stuff in the league,” Padres catcher Austin Nola said. “The arsenal — the fastball, slider, curveball, changeup — it’s elite stuff. It just disappears.”
Snell’s most recent start was his best of the year and against a crucial opponent. He went through seven innings for the second consecutive outing while striking out 13 batters in the Padres’ 1-0 victory over the St Louis Cardinals on Wednesday. While holding the Redbirds without a hit through six innings, he looked at the left-field scoreboard and saw 99 mph for the first time of his career.
13 strikeouts, 2 hits and 0 runs in 7 innings. Blake Snell is on 🔥🔥🔥 @SportingTrib pic.twitter.com/sGidSIX2bH— Tony Capobianco (@tonymcapo) September 22, 2022
“I was really pumped about the 99,” Snell said. “Really pumped. So that was the highlight, whatever happened.”
Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Cardinals snapped San Diego’s five-game winning streak. During that streak, the pitching staff notched 40 strikeouts while allowing five walks and only one run in 36 innings, making the Padres the first team in MLB history to do so during a 4-game span. The starting rotation also tossed 27.2 straight scoreless innings, the longest scoreless streak of any rotation in the big leagues this season. The Padres record is 33.1 IP, set by their first World Series squad in 1984.
“We just build off of each other,” Snell said. “We all see it. We all know how good we are, how capable we are to do it every night. That just kind of keeps us going and keeps us hungry and striving to be the best versions of ourselves.”
The Padres remain in control of the second wild card spot ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies by half a game. They’re also three games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, who are in the outside looking in. Should San Diego slip to the third and final wild card position by the end of the season, St. Louis will be its likely postseason opponent, which makes the results of this series encouraging. The second wild card winner would take on either the New York Mets or Atlanta Braves, depending on who ever comes up short in the National League East Division race. A small margin on 1.5 games separates the two teams.
The Padres travel to Colorado this weekend to take on the Rockies, who are coming off the rare four-game sweep by the San Francisco Giants. Despite being in last place of the NL West, the Rockies tie the Padres with 40 home wins this season. The Rockies lead the season series with the Padres 9-7 and have only dropped one game to them at home. This trend will need to change should the Padres want to keep their playoff hopes alive.