2013 has been a backwards season for the Rays–the pitching has crumbled while the bats are flourishing. The results of that has been a level of frustration unlike like anything Rays fans have ever seen, the Rays riding great offensive performances to early leads before watching their once-reliable rotation and bullpen implode entirely. That’s true on a macro level as well–the Rays have had the offense to get off to a great start to 2013 but their pitching’s collapse has left the Rays just 14-16. Could Sunday be the day that begins a run where the Rays’ newfound offense blends with the pitching that has become renowned throughout baseball and turn their season around?
On Sunday at Coors Field, the Rays got off to another early lead, scoring thrice off Jhoulys Chacin in the first inning on a James Loney RBI single, a wild pitch, and a Kelly Johnson RBI single. But then Alex Cobb looked like he might be the next pitcher to blow an early lead on the way to a crushing defeat. Michael Cuddyer made it 3-1 with a solo homer in the 2nd, and then Troy Tulowitzki made it 3-2 with another home run in the 4th. But in the 6th, the Rays offense went right at Chacin and the Rockies again, scoring three more times on another RBI single by Johnson and a 2-run double by Ryan Roberts. Nolan Arenado ended Cobb’s afternoon with a third home run with 2 outs in the 6th, but the Rays bullpen was lockdown in relief of him, with Jake McGee striking out Carlos Gonzalez to end the 7th before Joel Peralta and Jamey Wright tossed shutout ball in the 8th and 9th, with Wright striking out the side in a perfect inning to finish off the Rays’ 8-3 win.
Cobb went 6.2 innings allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. He made three big mistakes, but his command was solid overall as he got 10 outs on the ground and he lit up the strike zone, throwing 71 of 107 pitches for strikes. This is what Alex Cobb can do–he’s not some ace like David Price or Matt Moore and he’s not going to dominate every time out, but he can eat innings and keep the Rays in games on a consistent basis, and that makes him a very valuable pitcher.
Ben Zobrist was out of the Rays lineup after leaving the team because of the death of his grandmother. Evan Longoria also went 0 for 4 with a walk. Usually those two being non-entities is a recipe for disaster for this Rays offense, but not this time around. James Loney raised his average to an unbelievable .398 as he went 3 for 5 with an RBI and 3 runs scored, Kelly Johnson and Ryan Roberts each went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI, and Desmond Jennings had 2 hits while Jose Lobaton had 2 RBI. Overall, the Rays went 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position, stranding just 4 runners on base all game. Despite the fact that the Rockies out-homered them 3-0, the Rays found a way to push runs across and refused to let a game that seemed very losable the way they have been playing slip away again.
The Rays hope to take the momentum from their series win versus the Rockies back with them as they head to Tropicana Field to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Jeremy Hellickson takes on Mark Buehrle in the opener at 7:10 PM on Monday night to start a 4-game series with Toronto and a 10-game homestand. The Rays hope that by the end of that stretch, their season outlook will be completely different than it has been lately.