Thursday’s game marked Alex Cobb‘s return, but Tampa Bay Rays fans knew from the start that the contest would not be decided by Cobb’s performance. It was not much of a surprise that Cobb picked up right where he left off in his first game back. He had a great start, going 6.2 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. However, it was also unsurprising that the Rays did not get him a single run while he was in the game. Some things changed, but it looked like the offense was struggling exactly the same. Thankfully, that shifted before the contest was through.
The Rays scored a run in the 7th only to see Grant Balfour give it back in the 9th. Balfour escaped a bases loaded, one out jam with the game still tied, but Josh Lueke allowed the go-ahead run to score in the 11th. Despite Cobb’s great start, the Rays were about to get swept by the Oakland Athletics. But something was different in the bottom of the inning.
The slumping Evan Longoria led off, and, sure enough, he got behind 1-2. This time, however, he laced a single to left field, breaking through to be the tying run on first base. Then the Rays apparently went back to normal as Matt Joyce flied out, and Wil Myers‘ drive to left was caught just before the wall. The pattern was the same: the Rays were not hitting the ball hard much, and when they did, they were always caught. The clutch James Loney did follow with a single, but then another struggling player, Desmond Jennings, stepped into the batter’s box. Jennings, though, was intent on copying Longoria, drilling a single to center to tie the game. And after that, there was no way the Rays were going to lose. Sean Rodriguez did the honors, drilling a walk-off 3-run home run to win the game 5-2.
This game may have been Cobb’s first day back in the rotation, but the returns of Longoria and Jennings to their usual ways was just as critical. The latter two players also happen to play every day instead of once every five, and if they can get going, it could change everything for the Rays.
The Boston Red Sox, fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, will come into town tomorrow in a battle of the bottom two teams in the AL East. However, the Rays finally have some momentum, and hopefully they can carry it into their series with Boston. Chris Archer will take on John Lackey in the opener as the Rays try to start the winning streak fans have been awaiting for a very long time.