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Snell makes no excuses after slow start continues vs. Phillies

Snell makes no excuses after slow start continues vs. Phillies originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – With everything that has been going on this season, including the impending birth of his first child, Giants pitcher Blake Snell has done a pretty good job of keeping his focus on baseball.

That he has yet to find his Cy Young form this far into the 2024 MLB season is indeed a bit troubling, but the fact that the lefty has been able to keep his mind on the job at hand without getting distracted is probably the most positive thing he or the Giants can say at this point.

“I’m excited to have a kid, I can’t wait,” Snell said following his four-inning start in the Giants’ 8-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday at Oracle Park. “But [when] I’m assigned to pitch, that’s the only thing on my mind. Just find ways to get better and start succeeding.”

Snell’s slow start to this season has been one of the main storylines behind the Giants’ up-and-down campaign. The reigning NL Cy Young winner and one of only seven players to win the pitching award in each league, Snell has yet to find a steady groove on the mound with San Francisco.

Against Philadelphia, Snell retired seven of the first eight batters he faced before his afternoon blew up following a 35-pitch fourth inning, when the Phillies scored two runs (one unearned) on three hits and benefited from a fielding error by third baseman Matt Chapman.

Just like that, Snell’s afternoon was over.

Credit the Phillies, the best team in baseball, for their patience at the plate. During the second time through the batting order, they repeatedly made Snell work into deep counts while driving his pitch count high.

That was the same plan that the Pittsburgh Pirates used against Snell in his last start, forcing the 31-year-old to throw 87 pitches in only 3 1/3 innings.

“[Philadelphia] just made him throw a lot of pitches again,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s just frustrating. He can’t get over the hump and cut his pitch counts down in each inning. Once they start to mount, the next thing you know it’s 90 pitches and he has to come out after four. But I thought his fastball had good life to it, his slider was really good, curveball [had] bite on it. Just not getting results right now.”

The Giants were expecting a lot more when they inked Snell to a $62 million, two-year free-agent contract late in mid-March.

Because he signed so late, Snell missed all of spring training and has been battling to get back up to speed ever since. He had to deal with a groin injury in late April, went on the paternity list last week when his girlfriend’s due date approached then was activated when the day came and went without any news.

Snell indeed will be a proud papa when the time comes, but until then he has tried to maintain his focus on baseball.

“Traditionally he’s a little bit of a slow starter,” Melvin said. “Once he gets his footing, he takes off like he did even last year. He’s had a very uneven spring, he’s had a very uneven start to the season and now he’s waiting for a baby. There’s been a lot going on, but he’s not going to give any excuses for the performance. Just not having results yet.”

Snell has yet to make it through five full innings in the five starts that he has made in a Giants uniform. He was on the hook for another L to the Phillies before San Francisco mounted another late rally for their fifth comeback victory in six games.

One of the few mistakes Snell made was on a 3-1 fastball to Kyle Schwarber in the third inning. The Phillies leadoff hitter and DH crushed the pitch into the right field stands for a two-run home run.

“Just got to execute better,” Snell said. “Can’t miss down and in to Schwarber and attack the zone more. Felt like I stopped doing that in the later innings of the start, so fix that and I should be good.

“It’s such a battle mentally when you pitch in the big leagues. You go out there the first couple of innings aggressive, aggressive mindset, you’re attacking. Second time through the lineup you’re a little more, I don’t want to say perfect, but you’re a little more cautious. For me, I don’t need to be that cautious. That’s kind of what ultimately allowed them to be in hitters counts and get the results that they got.”

Snell said that missing out on spring training set him back much more than he expected.

“I thought I did everything I could to be ready,” Snell said. “It’s not easy. I didn’t face a big league hitter until I pitched my first game in the big leagues this year. It’s tough. You have nothing to go off of. It’s all excuses, but it’s the truth.”

The other truth is that Snell’s family should have a new addition by the time he makes his next start. Even then, don’t expect his mind to be too far away from thoughts of baseball.

“Whatever happens, I feel like we’ll be ready for,” Snell said. “[My girlfriend] knows how focused I am on pitching and what it means to me.”

To be fair, Snell repeatedly accepted blame for his pitching and declined to use anything as an excuse.

“I’m feeling better so I should be getting better results to help the team have easier wins and not have to use key pieces to get that win,” Snell said in summarizing Monday’s game. “Definitely things I got to do better to help make it an easier situation for the moves Bob’s going to have to make later in the game.

“It’s definitely fun to watch [San Francisco’s relievers] have a lot of success and get the win, especially when I haven’t been pitching like I should be. Definitely feels great but me personally, I got to be better and I’m getting there.”

The feel is there, for sure. Now it’s all about getting the results that everyone has been expecting.

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