Tampa Bay took on their division Boston Red Sox on Monday in Port Charlotte, and with a lineup where all ten players are expected to make their Opening Day roster, they took advantage of the Red Sox’ split squad on their way to a crisp 6-3 win.
Alex Cobb made his Grapefruit League debut while taking the mound for the Rays, but it did not go as planned as he allowed a solo home run to the second batter of the game, Dustin Pedroia and a Mike Carp RBI double in the second inning. But he did finish strong, striking out 2 in his final inning of work, and he certainly deserves some slack in his first appearance of the spring. The Rays would have loved to see Cobb pitch better, but in this game, their offense was perfectly capable of compensated for Cobb’s rough start.
Boston’s starting pitcher, Alfredo Aceves, immediately got himself into trouble, walking Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce with 1 out in the first inning, and Yunel Escobar made them pay, drilling a 2-run double. Then in the 4th, the Rays were back at it again versus Chris Hernandez, with a pair of players who will see time as Escobar’s double play partners in 2012, Ryan Roberts and Ben Zobrist, drilled a 2-run double and an RBI single respectively to make it 5-2 Rays.
While the bats provided the run support, the pitchers behind the Cobb really impressed. Jamey Wright, known as a sinkerballer and not a big strikeout guy, tossed a perfect inning with a pair of strikeouts before Cesar Ramos tossed 2 perfect frames, striking out 1 and getting 3 groundouts. Jake McGee rounded out the Rays’ MLB pitching contingent in the game with a hitless inning working around a walk.
The Rays added an insurance run in the 7th inning when Cole Figueroa doubled and later scored, and although lefty Neil Schenk allowed a run in the 8th, fellow left-hander Adam Liberatore struck out the side following a leadoff walk for the save in the game as the Rays won the game 6-3. Cobb did struggle, but the offense, led by the big 2-run doubles by Escobar and Roberts, followed up a 10-run explosion on Sunday with another strong offensive effort, and the bullpen behind Cobb pitched extremely well. Other notable performers included James Loney, who went 2 for 2 with a run scored, and Matt Joyce, who went 1 for 1 with a single, a walk, a run, and also an outfield assist when he nailed Shane Victorino with a perfect throw to third base. On the other end unfortunately, was Hak-Ju Lee, who struck out in both of his at-bats and also made 2 errors in the field, something especially surprising for him, but as we said with Cobb, it’s still early in the spring (heck, it’s February and not even spring yet!) and we know he’s a lot more talented than that.
Overall, the Rays got impressive results both at the plate and on the mound on their way to their third win in four spring games. The games may not mean too much right now, but watching the Rays play like this reminds you that it’s never too early to get excited about this team.