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Snell's streak ends, Black thrives off DL

In duel with Cubs righty, Rays prospect nets career-high 12 strikeouts
May 24, 2015

Blake Snell entered Saturday with a 49-inning scoreless streak. Corey Black was just hoping to pitch without pain. Neither ended up getting a win, but the starting pitchers weren't at fault for that. Snell had his streak snapped in the first inning but set a career high with 12 strikeouts.

Blake Snell entered Saturday with a 49-inning scoreless streak. Corey Black was just hoping to pitch without pain. Neither ended up getting a win, but the starting pitchers weren't at fault for that.

Snell had his streak snapped in the first inning but set a career high with 12 strikeouts. Black, who landed on the disabled list with elbow soreness on May 16, struck out three in the opening frame and faced one over the minimum through five innings. Neither figured in the decision as Double-A Montgomery rallied for a 2-1 victory over visiting Tennessee.

For Snell, ranked ninth in the Rays farm system, the outing saw the end of a scoreless streak that was rapidly approaching a modern record. According to _Baseball America_, the longest shutout run in Minor League history was 72 innings by Irv Wilhelm, who ran up the tally over stints in the Minors that spanned 1907-11. More recently, Tennessee's Brad Thompson logged 57 2/3 consecutive scoreless frames in 2004.

Snell finished 2014 with three consecutive scoreless frames, then began this season 46 shutout innings. The streak ended when Willson Contreras grounded a one-out single to right field, scoring Elliot Soto from second. That was the only run Snell allowed over six innings.

Black said he and the Smokies, who were blanked by Snell over seven innings on May 12, were well aware of the streak and were intent on ending it.

"We definitely knew," Black said. "It was nice to go out and have a lead against somebody like that."

Snell, for his part, said he didn't give the streak much thought.

"I didn't really care," Snell said. "That was pretty cool to see and be a part of and try to beat it. At the end of the day, I'm just happy that I got as far as I did, happy to continue to keep making positive strides."

The 22-year-old shook off the early run and faced the minimum over the next four innings. He worked around a one-out single for a scoreless sixth to finish the outing.

"My game plan was to attack with the fastball and just kind of play off that," Snell said. "I had a good fastball and I just kept attacking all game."

Snell's ERA climbed to 0.17 through nine appearances (eight starts), including a 0.29 mark in five Double-A starts.

Meanwhile, Black -- a fireballing right-hander and the

Cubs' No. 19 prospect -- was seeking a strong rebound from the disabled list. The 23-year-old said he was battling elbow soreness for about a month before being idled. The elbow felt fine when he pitched but would tighten up significantly in the days that followed, he noted. The Cubs skipped him one start, hoping it would ease the tightness.

"Everything felt really good," Black said. "I had a little elbow flareup, nothing serious. It felt better to be out there and have my arm feel better."

Black, who said he'd struggled in the opening inning this year, struck out three batters in the bottom of the first. The only batter to reach safely against him in the inning was Rays No. 2 prospect Daniel Robertson, who got aboard on an error by third baseman Ryan Dent.

The San Diego native used an unassisted double play to work around a one-out single in the second, then cruised through his final three frames without allowing a baserunner.

Black, who's hit 100 mph in the past, had struggled to locate his fastball to the glove side this season. That changed Saturday as he spotted up his heater effectively to both sides of the plate.

"Tonight, I had the fastball in and out and down in the zone," he said. "I was able to throw my changeup for strikes, the curve for strikes. Everything was working and I got some quick outs."

The 2012 fourth-round pick has a 3.24 ERA in eight starts this year. Over 41 2/3 innings, he's struck out 47 while walking 18.

Tennessee had a 1-0 lead until the eighth, when Tampa Bay top prospect Justin O'Conner doubled in the tying run, then scored on Hector Guevara's infield single.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.