Snell's adrenaline gets the best of him in tough Giants debut

Snell's adrenaline gets the best of him in tough Giants debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants finally flew home after six weeks in Arizona, Blake Snell did not initially join them. He had work to do after a late arrival to camp, but he showed up in San Diego a few days later to join his new teammates for the Opening Day ceremonies. The next day, it was back to Scottsdale, where Snell pitched four tuneup innings against the organization's Double-A team.

Snell struck out 11 in that game, putting together a line that jumped off the page when the Giants announced it. But he wasn't happy. He wasn't getting much feedback from hitters who are not used to facing big leaguers, so the Giants had him face three teammates on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, a last-ditch effort to get him up to speed before his season debut.

Snell was all smiles after that simulated game and he said he was ready to go. But he was reminded Monday night that there's no way to fully simulate the adrenaline that courses through your body when you stand on a big league mound in front of 25,000 cheering fans.

Snell's debut lasted just three innings, with the Washington Nationals taking an early lead and cruising to an 8-1 win. The new co-ace took the loss his first time out, and he said he regretted "nitpicking" in the first couple of innings. He also was surprised by how fired up he was as he took the mound.

"A bad combination, I guess," he said.

Whether because of adrenaline or his approach, it took Snell more than 60 pitches to consistently find the zone. After 72, his night was done.

"They made him throw a lot of pitches," manager Bob Melvin said. "Seventy-five was about what we were looking to get out of him today. At least he's off and running. It was not a great game for us all the way around, but we knew it would probably be a shorter outing today."

Snell tends to run high pitch counts even when he's at his best, but Monday was on the extreme end as adrenaline got the better of him. He went to three-ball counts on each of the first seven batters and went 3-0 on three of them. Because of the quality of his stuff, Snell twice came back from 3-0 to get strikeouts and retired the third batter on a groundout, but the Nationals eventually wore him down.

Two walks, an infield single and a botched rundown helped them score three runs in the second inning. Against a Giants lineup that was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, that was more than enough.

Lefty Erik Miller warmed up as Snell's pitch count approached 60 in the second, but he got out of the jam and finished his night with a 1-2-3 third that showed flashes of what's to come. Snell felt he was being "too careful" in the first two innings instead of just trusting his stuff. In the third, he got ahead of all three batters, inducing a grounder to third and then ending his Giants debut with back-to-back strikeouts.

"I knew going out there [in the third], come on, get it over the plate, start attacking," Snell said. "I was trying to do that the whole time. I was just really excited, and I tried to do too much. It didn't hurt me in the first inning and probably should have. The second inning, it hurt me. The third inning, I started to calm down and get it going. I felt a lot more at ease."

While Snell's runup to this season was unique, the results on Monday weren't completely foreign to a man who had a 2.25 ERA last season and won his second Cy Young Award. In his debut last year, Snell needed 93 pitches to get through 4 1/3, allowing three runs while striking out nine.

There were five strikeouts in the three innings Monday, with the fastball topping out at 97 mph. Those were the positives, and Snell said he would treat the outing as a learning experience.

The adrenaline should be dialed back the next time out, although maybe not fully. Snell's first road start for the Giant will come against a Tampa Bay Rays organization that drafted him in the first round 13 years ago.

"I'm excited about where I'm at and how the ball is coming out," he said. "I'm only going to get better. It's only going to get more crisp. The first game, I'm happy it's out of the way. There's a lot to learn from it and I'm really looking forward to what I'll be able to do Sunday against Tampa."

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