The Rays see everything around them slipping away. The Yankees go on a 9-game winning streak. The Orioles are staying tough. And for the Rays themselves, their offense has been inconsistent and their pitching at times as well. But none of that matters. The Rays have the ability to turn everything around and stay in contention until the very end in the AL East. After a tough loss on Saturday night going into Sunday in a 15-inning affair the Rays came back with a crisp 3-0 win to clinch a series win versus the Miami Marlins and 5 of 6 against them on the season.
Joe Maddon decided to give Desmond Jennings a day off and install B.J. Upton in the leadoff spot. That move immediately paid dividends as Upton slammed a leadoff homer off of Josh Johnson to give the Rays a quick 1-0 lead. It was Upton’s first leadoff home run since 2010. That would be all the run support the Rays managed to get Alex Cobb for a while. But it was enough.
One start after a debacle versus the New York Mets, Cobb came through with his best major league start. Cobb allowed a 2nd innings hit batsman, a third inning single, a 4th inning walk, and a 7th inning single. That was it. Cobb breezed through 7 innings allowing no runs on just 2 hits, striking out 10 while walking 1. 69 of his 100 pitches were strikes and his groundout to flyout ratio was 8-1. The key for Cobb was his signature pitch, his split-change (a combination between a splitter and a changeup). It was downright unhittable. According to Brooks Baseball, Cobb threw it 53 times (53% of his pitches), 42 for strikes, and he forced 14 swings-and-misses thanks to jaw-dropping late sinking action. Sunday was Alex Cobb at his best.
The Rays got Cobb a couple more runs in the 6th and 7th on RBI singles by Drew Sutton and Ben Zobrist. Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney followed with a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts each to complete the 2-hitter as the Rays beat the Marlins 3-0. Cobb (3-3) earned the win in the game, while Johnson (4-5) took the loss and Rodney earned his 19th save. The Rays got a sparkling effort from Cobb to follow up impressive performances from Matt Moore and James Shields in the Trop component of the Citrus Series versus the Marlins, and they took advantage of their opportunities offensively, leaving just 1 runner in scoring position all game. The Rays have faced a frustrating stretch, but they played hard versus the Marlins and came away with a series win, and hopefully this time they can keep that going against the Nationals and Phillies. The Rays have a well-deserved off day Monday (I’m sure they’ll make up some of the sleep they lost on Saturday night/Sunday morning) before heading to Washington to take on the first-place Nationals.