ST. PETRSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Blake Snell was nearly unhittable for the second straight start, and he found a little more of the strike zone, too.
Snell took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Kevin Kiermaier hit a grand slam and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Washington Nationals 11-0 on Monday night.
Wilson Ramos homered twice and rookie Jake Bauers had four hits in the Rays’ fourth straight win.
“I felt like the way we hit allowed me to get in a more aggressive mindset, which changed my pace and tempo, all of that,” said Snell.
Snell (10-4) walked Trea Turner and Bryce Harper to open the game before retiring 18 straight, striking out five straight at one point. Anthony Rendon doubled off the left-field wall on a 3-1 pitch leading off the seventh for the first of Washington’s two hits.
Snell, 6-1 in his last eight starts, struck out 10 while walking four. He left after the seventh inning and 103 pitches.
Snell had pitched seven innings in a 2-1 victory over Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros his last time out, walking a season-high seven. In his last three starts, the 25-year-old left-hander has given up nine hits while walking 15.
“I don’t care if you’re a lefty or righty, he’s not a comfortable at-bat by any means. His stuff is that good,” Kiermaier said. “He’s a superstar.”
Rendon’s hit spared manager Kevin Cash the unenviable decision of whether to take out the young left-hander as his pitch count approached a career-high 114, no-hitter or not.
“He’s not getting much past that,” Cash said. “I’ve already been asked by the front office how we would have handled that, and I don’t have a good answer. But I would have been really concerned for Blake, and (pitching coach) Kyle (Snyder) would have probably choked me if I had gone beyond that.”
Kiermaier’s first home run of the season came during a six-run second inning against starter Gio Gonzalez. It barely made it over the glove of center fielder Michael Taylor.
“I thought I hit it way better than that,” said Kiermaier, who was playing in only his 18th game because of a thumb injury. “It was a wall-scraper, but over the fence I’ll take ’em anyway I can.”
Gonzalez (6-5) threw 43 pitches in the second inning without getting an out. He gave up six runs, three hits and five walks overall, three of them in succession before Kiermaier’s homer.
The one-inning start was the shortest of his career and resulted in the Nationals’ eighth loss in 11 games.
The game marked the return to Tropicana Field of Washington manager Dave Martinez, who spent seven seasons (2008-14) as the Rays bench coach under Joe Maddon.
Gonzalez’s early troubles made it a long night.
“Earlier in the season he was under control, he was using his legs a little bit better,” Martinez said. “He wasn’t thinking as much. He was attacking the strike zone. Seems like his last couple outings, that’s gone by the wayside.”
Rays RHP Chris Archer (left abdominal strain) had a 40-pitch bullpen session and is scheduled for a three-inning simulated game Thursday. “No issues, no limitations right now,” Archer said. The opening day starter could make a minor league rehab start next week and be back around the All-Star break.
IN (FOR TWO GAMES) AND OUT
After completing Sunday night’s game after midnight, the Nationals touched down in Tampa at 4 a.m. on Monday and expect to fly out well before sundown after Tuesday’s afternoon game. “The shortest trip ever,” said Martinez, who got to bed at about 6:30 Monday morning.
Nationals: RHP Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) was reinstated from the disabled list and RHP Jefry Rodriguez was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson (strained right hamstring) will make his first start since June 3 after one more problem-free bullpen session.
Rays: RHP Jake Faria (left oblique strain) threw 30 pitches in his second bullpen session. He hasn’t ruled out returning in late July. … LHP Jonny Venters (strained right hamstring) went on the 10-day disabled and RHP Austin Pruitt was recalled from Triple-A Durham.
Nationals ace Matt Scherzer (10-3) and Rays RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-3) are the scheduled starters Tuesday in the finale of a two-game series.
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