Snell took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and got his major league-leading 19th win, guiding the Rays past the Cleveland Indians 3-1 on Wednesday.
“I know that we’re winning and that’s the most important thing,” Snell said. “That’s what I’m focused on; that’s what we’re focused on. All the individual stuff I’ll look at later.”
Snell (19-5) lost his chance at a no-hitter when Jose Ramirez led off the seventh with his 38th homer. Snell won his team-record seventh straight start, striking out nine and walking two in seven innings. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 16 consecutive home starts.
Tampa Bay closed within eight games of Oakland for the second AL wild card with 17 games left. The Athletics were scheduled to play at the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night, then open a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Friday night.
“He’s got the whole package,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s got velocity, breaking ball, changeup — and seeing how much he’s improved from one year to the next, that’s pretty special stuff.”
Cleveland’s magic number to clinch a third consecutive AL Central title remained at three.
Rays designated hitter Ji-Man Choi smacked a two-run homer in the first off Carlos Carrasco (16-9), then took a well-inside pitch from Carrasco in the sixth and briefly stared at the mound. (Choi hit a winning homer off Brad Hand in the ninth inning on Monday night.)
“Every at-bat I can hit a home run you feel great, especially today, helping to contribute to a win for Snell,” Choi said through a translator.
Cleveland’s Edwin Encarnacion stared and shook his head after a high and inside pitch from Snell in the fourth.
“It was nothing,” Encarnacion said. “No hard feelings. He tried to go inside. No problem.”
Carrasco (16-9) gave up three runs and six hits in seven innings.
Josh Donaldson, acquired by Cleveland from the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 31, hit into a double play as a pinch hitter in the eighth. He went 0-for-4 Tuesday in his Cleveland debut, his first big league game since May 28.
Tommy Pham extended his career-best hitting streak to 16 games with a two-out infield single in the first and scored on Choi’s drive to center field.
Indians: Donaldson is set to start at third base on Friday.
Rays: CF Kevin Kiermaier didn’t provide details for what the team called a “general illness” that kept him out the lineup the previous two games. “Time to rest really helped,” said Kiermaier, who had a fourth-inning sacrifice fly and tripled during the sixth.
Ramirez’s homer was his first since Aug. 17, ending an 88 at-bat drought. … Tampa Bay OF Mallex Smith stole two bases, and he has now 33 overall. … The game was played in 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Rays: RHP Diego Castillo (3-2) will start a bullpen game for Tampa Bay on Friday night against Oakland RHP Edwin Jackson (5-3). The Rays took three of four from the Athletics in Oakland from May 28-31.