Padres’ Blake Snell Wanted ‘Challenge’ Of Starting Against Dodgers

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While the San Diego Padres were fighting to keep slim hope alive for a playoff spot, Blake Snell emerged as a steadying force for the team.

Now that the Padres are eliminated from 2023 postseason contention, they faced a decision with their Cy Young Award hopeful. Snell was given the option of making a start this week on extra rest, facing the Oakland Athletics rather than taking the mound at Dodger Stadium.

“I just enjoy the moment,” Snell said after a stellar performance against the Dodgers. “I enjoy the challenge.

“That’s why you play, to play the best teams. And it’s the only way you can really tell how good you are. You make mistakes, they’re going to hit it.”

Snell in the past has not been shy when discussing the Dodgers. After being traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Padres, the left-hander said he believed his new team matched up well with the Dodgers and he couldn’t wait to face them.

On Wednesday, Snell held the Dodgers scoreless over six innings while allowing just two baserunners — Mookie Betts in both instances — and collecting eight strikeouts. Betts singled in the first inning and walked in the third.

The brilliant performance could go a long way in deciding the 2023 National League Cy Young Award winner. Snell is competing with Atlanta Braves ace Spencer Strider, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen and Chicago Cubs lefty Justin Steele.

Strider struggled in an outing last week and Gallen took a loss shortly before Snell’s start against the Dodgers, but he isn’t keeping tabs on the competition.

“Honestly, no. I wish nothing but the best for both of them, for every pitcher, for every hitter. I don’t wish nothing against them,” Snell said. “I just want to focus on what I’m going to do and how I’m going to help this team win.”

Snell leads the Majors in ERA (2.43), is best among NL pitchers with 5.98 hits per nine innings and a .187 batting average against. Snell additionally ranks second in the NL with 217 strikeouts, trailing Strider’s 259.

“He’s trying to make his push for the Cy Young, and understandably so,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the 6-1 loss. “He’s having that type of season. A guy like that, with the stuff that he has, when he’s on, there’s really not too many lineups that are going to be able to do anything with him.

“So you just sort of hope you can wait him out and get him out after four or five innings. Tonight, pitch count was efficient and we got him out after six, but the damage was already done. Where he’s at right now, it’s just hard.”

If Snell does win the top pitching honor this year, he would become just the seventh pitcher in MLB history to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues.

The list includes Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clements, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer.

Chris Taylor impressed by Blake Snell

After Snell’s dominant performance, Chris Taylor mentioned the 30-year-old being in top form.

“He had all his pitches working. Obviously he’s having a good year for a reason. He’s got great stuff, and when he can throw any pitch in any count, that makes it tough,” Taylor said.

“We’ve faced him quite a bit. He’s always had success against us, but I thought tonight was the best he’s looked.”

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