When Blake Snell won his first Cy Young Award in 2018, he gave ample credit to the Rays for signing, developing and turning him into a dominant starter.
Traded after the 2020 season — and his controversial removal from Game 6 of the World Series — to the Padres, Snell won another Cy Young on Wednesday.
And he thanked the Rays again.
Snell said his dazzling performance in an emotional outing against the Rays June 17 in San Diego — his first time facing pitching coach Kyle Snyder, manager Kevin Cash and other Tampa Bay staffers he was close with — was a critical moment in turning his season into something historic. He finished 14-9 with a majors-best 2.25 ERA in becoming the seventh pitcher to win the prestigious award in both leagues.
“Being able to pitch in front of the those guys was honestly pretty emotional for me,” Snell, 30, said Wednesday in a media conference call. “I was so excited. Facing them, it felt like home. That’s where I grew up. I was a little kid over there. That whole staff raised me into a man.
“Just kind of wrapping all of that together was a pretty emotional time for me. So in that moment, in that start, was some of the best feeling I’ve ever had pitching. I remember that, and I just remember how excited I was to be able to pitch in front of them again. That game, that’s probably going to be one of my favorite games I think I’ll ever pitch.”
With a 1-6 record and 5.40 ERA in mid-May, Snell had shown some signs of improvement. Starting from the Rays game — in which he struck out a season-high 12 over six shutout innings — he went 12-3, 1.30.
Snell, now a free agent, was an easy winner over Arizona’s Zac Gallen and San Francisco’s Logan Webb in the National League, getting 28 of the 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
He joined an impressive group of winners in both leagues: Gaylord Perry, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer.
“It feels amazing,” Snell said. ”I’m not really good at understanding how to accept awards and not look forward. So definitely it feels good, and I’m trying to enjoy this more than the first one I won. It’s really special. It really hits me having my family around me, because that’s when I really notice what I’ve accomplished.”
Having gone 25-26 with a 3.85 ERA in the four seasons between awards, Snell said it felt different than when he won in 2018 for the Rays, when he went 21-5, 1.89.
“In 2018, I was a kid. I thought I was going to win 40 of them. I thought I was invincible. I thought winning the Cy Young was just what I was going to do every year,” he said. “You’re young, and that’s how you think: I could do it again. I feel great. I’m only getting better.
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