The same thought crossed the minds of every Rays fan watching the game: “here we go again.” Clay Buchholz wasn’t Felix Hernandez or Mark Buehrle- thankfully it wasn’t a perfect game bid this time as James Loney walked with 2 outs in 2nd to end that. But the Rays simply couldn’t get anything against him. Through 5 innings, Buchholz had held the Rays hitless, striking out 9 while walking 2.
The Rays finally had a chance in the 6th as 2 walks gave them some baserunners, but Buchholz escaped the jam before working a perfect 7th. Only in the 8th did the nightmare finally end as Kelly Johnson managed a broken bat single. The Rays would only get 3-hit in the game as Desmond Jennings managed a double (but only after a double play), and Evan Longoria laced a long single against Andrew Miller the following inning, but when only getting 3-hit is your highlight, that’s a serious issue. Buchholz went 8 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 11 while walking 4. He wasn’t perfect versus the Rays, but he was dominant and made the Rays look feeble at the plate, something that has been far too often an occurrence thus far this season.
On the opposite side was Alex Cobb, who had one tough inning but otherwise pitched very well. In the 3rd, Cobb allowed three straight singles before a Mike Napoli double to The Triangle in right-center brought home 2 runs. Two more runs would cross the plate as what should have been an inning-ending double play off the bat of Stephen Drew turned into a huge error by Yunel Escobar to give Boston a 4-0 lead. But other than that, Cobb looked really good. Cobb went 6.2 innings allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. Take out the 4th and he allowed no runs on 3 hits.
After we dissected Cobb’s curveball earlier today and concluded that there wasn’t too much reason to be excited, he really showed flashes with it this time around, showing tight 11-to-5 break to force a few strikeouts, but his fastball wasn’t great as his groundout-to-flyout ratio was an uncharacteristically bad 7-5 and his split-change didn’t have much bite at all as he got just one swing-and-miss in the 18 times he threw it. Cobb wasn’t that bad, and if his curveball really is a pitch that can be effective for him consistently, good things are ahead. But the bad 4th cost him, and of course a non-existent offense and flawed defense didn’t do him any favors.
The Rays’ offseason acquisitions of Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar has been much maligned after both have gotten off to poor starts to the season. But Johnson may have finally gotten that lucky hit that gets him going after breaking up the no-hitter, and even Escobar, who has taken offensive struggles to the field as well, may have finally turned corner. Escobar was the final out of the game, but he battled hard versus Andrew Miller, not making anything easy for Miller as his at-bat stretched to 8 pitches and laying off 2 fastballs and fouling off two more tough pitches after getting down in the count 1-2. The Rays are still waiting for their offense to come alive, and Johnson and Escobar have the ability to be right in the thick of that. This game brought the Rays’ offensive struggles of the young season to a breaking point, but maybe even within a game mired by frustration there may be reason for optimism.