There were a series of questions surrounding the Tampa Bay Rays-St. Louis Cardinals matchup on Wednesday. Could the Rays win their seventh straight game? Would the Cardinals respond from their crushing loss with Adam Wainwright on the hill on Tuesday? Was Alex Cobb going to be a pitcher the Rays could rely on as they enter the stretch run? Some questions were answered while others will require an ongoing inquiry, but all the Rays know is that their Wednesday game ended in near-perfect fashion as they pulled off a sweep of the defending NL champions.
For the first time in far too long, Alex Cobb looked every bit like the ace he showed flashes of being last season. Cobb went 7 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 10 while walking none. Cobb kept going strong despite getting hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. He completed 7 innings for the first time since June 18th while his 10 strikeouts without walking a batter was the first time he had struck out more than 8 without a walk in his career. He was able to achieve that with the best stuff he has displayed in a while, a point acknowledged by Joe Maddon after the game. He averaged 93.3 MPH with his two-seam fastball, his highest mark since May 27th, and he generated an excellent 9 swings-and-misses on his 34 split-changes. Just as impressive, though, was Cobb’s performance at the plate. With two outs in the second inning, Cobb stepped up to the plate and picked a great time for his first MLB hit, drilling an RBI double to give himself a 1-0 lead. As it turned out, that was all that he needed.
Evan Longoria gave Alex Cobb a second run on support before his final inning, drilling a seventh-inning sac fly, and Brandon Guyer made it a 3-0 game with an RBI single in the ninth. Longoria did go 0 for 4 in the game, but he did notch an RBI for his third straight contest. Desmond Jennings, meanwhile, was right in the thick of things in terms of scoring runs, going 3 for 5 with those latter two runs scored. Then, to finish off the game, Brad Boxberger struck out two in a perfect eighth inning before Jake McGee struck out the side in the ninth for his 9th save. The Rays offensive effort was not quite as inspired as it was on Tuesday, but that was going to be awfully though. They settled for the type of win that has typified their team since they began contending in 2008, a strong performance by the pitchers accompanied by a few runs scored.