Alex Cobb looks ready for the regular season to begin. His start on Saturday was not perfect, but his stuff was electric and the Rays have plenty of reason to be excited about what he will do this season.
After James Loney gave the Rays an early lead with a 2-run homer in the first inning, Delmon Young responded with his first homer of the spring for the Baltimore Orioles to pull Baltimore within 2-1. Cobb got into further trouble in the 4th, allowing a Henry Urrutia double and a Young single before a double play tied the game at 2 in the 4th. Then the following inning, Brandon Guyer lost an Alexi Casilla double in the sun for a double, and Michael Almanzar made the Rays pay with a go-ahead RBI single. But even after giving up the lead, Cobb refused to come apart.
In the 6th, Cobb worked a perfect inning striking out 2. Then in the 7th, a Yunel Escobar error, a wild pitch, and a sac bunt gave the Orioles a man on third with just one out as they were primed to get a key insurance run. But Cobb struck out Quintin Berry and Almanzar to end the frame and keep the Rays within a run. Cobb went 7 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 12 while walking none. His fastball command was not perfect as he allowed a few too many flyballs, but he used his split-change and curveball to give the Rays seven strong innings nevertheless. Unfortunately for Cobb, Ubaldo Jimenez pitched 5 shutout frames after the Loney home run, and he left in line for the loss.
Behind Cobb, Jake McGee showed a few good curveballs as he tossed a shutout 8th, and Joel Peralta combined with Josh Lueke for a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th. But despite everyone’s best efforts, it was going to come down to the bottom of the 9th, and the Rays’ chances were looking long. The Orioles brought in a big league pitcher, Evan Meek, and due up for the Rays were a trio of minor leaguers, none of whom had played above High-A: Jonathan Quinonez, Granden Goetzman, and Alejandro Segovia. But the Rays found a way. Quinonez led off the inning with a line drive to center for a single, and a groundball by Goetzman moved Quinonez to second. Then it was Segovia who worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a bloop just in front of Julio Borbon in left for a game-tying single. Lueke tossed a shutout 10th before the Rays went quietly in the bottom of the frame as Tampa Bay and Baltimore settled for a 3-3 tie.
Alex Cobb’s 12 strikeouts have to be the story in this one, but Loney’s blast, the rally in the 9th, and Lueke 1.2 innings of shutout ball were also key as the Rays avoided their second straight loss. Going from a loss to a tie is nice, but the Rays will hope to take the next step and nail down a win against the Boston Red Sox tomorrow at 1:05 PM.