“I’d say we wouldn’t want anybody else out there on the mound more than him,” said Austin Meadows, the Rays’ right fielder and designated hitter.
The Rays are not on unfamiliar ground, having already won two elimination games in this postseason. They beat the Yankees in Game 5 of their division series and then beat the Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, both in San Diego. All of it provides the Rays with the comfort of knowing they can handle the pressure. That may not, however, apply to the manager himself.
“Probably not that much,” Cash said, “because I’ll be pretty stressed out.”
It was a fair admission for a manager who believes that, despite early predictions of an easy Los Angeles victory, the Rays could have played even better in the series — and yet they are still only one win from tying it up and forcing a Game 7, with their ace on the mound.
Part of the problem, Cash noted, is that the Rays seem to be playing from behind most of the time. They have taken the first lead of a game only once in the series, in Game 2. In the first three innings of Games 3, 4 and 5, the Dodgers outscored the Rays by a combined tally of 8-2. That has limited the Rays’ ability to adhere to their original game plan.
“It just hasn’t happened yet because they are up 1, 2, or 3 to nothing by the second or third inning every night, it feels like,” Cash said.
But during Game 1, which Los Angeles won, 8-3, Snell sat on the bench and observed how important it was to go after the Dodgers in the strike zone, to get them to swing and miss at strikes, because they would not chase balls.