The stage was set for as smooth of a win as a Rays had managed all season. Alex Cobb had rolled entering the 9th inning before allowing a leadoff home run to Brett Gardner in the 9th and then a hard single to Robinson Cano, and the Rays were forced to go to their bullpen. Holding an 8-1 lead, you knew that pending a collapse of historic proportions, they were going to win the game. But it was an opportunity for the Rays bullpen to finally slam the door and build some confidence and you had to hope they would do just that. Given the way the Rays’ bullpen has pitched that season, it wasn’t much of a surprise when they failed at that spectacularly.
Cesar Ramos replaced Cobb and simply could not throw a strike. He threw 8 straight pitches out of the zone for two walks before allowing a 2-run double to David Adams to make it 8-3. One of the runs was criminally charged to Cobb. But order was finally restored when Joel Peralta entered the game and struck out Ichiro Suzuki and Jayson Nix to end the game as the Rays did finally nail down the win. Peralta looked outstanding (he should probably be the Rays’ closer, at least until Fernando Rodney rights himself), but that doesn’t overshadow the fact that Ramos was the latest Rays reliever to completely implode. Sunday afternoon, though, belonged to Alex Cobb.
Cobb was incredible, going 8.1 innings allowing just 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 8 while walking none. Cobb also got 13 outs on the ground, so 21 of his 25 outs came on strikeouts or groundouts. The past few starts we’ve seen Cobb show two different sides of his game, striking out 13 in 4.2 innings a few starts ago and tossing 6.1 innings of 2-run ball despite striking out just 2 in his last start. In this game, Cobb had it all working. He did an incredible job throwing his sinker for strikes down in the zone and paired it with an unhittable split-change that forced plenty of whiffs and ugly swings. Who knows how good of a pitcher Cobb will be in the long run, but with two outstanding pitches and a third effective pitch in his curveball, he has the ability to dominate when things are going right and be a dependable pitcher who will battle even without his best stuff. Cobb’s outing ended on a sour note in the 9th, but it was marvelous seeing Cobb looking as good as ever, and the Rays will need him to continue to be a stabilizing force in a pitching staff that has gone through so much turmoil.
Also impressing in this game was the Rays offense, especially notable against Yankees ace CC Sabathia. The Rays stole a couple of runs on just 1 hit in the 2nd inning but scored a few more resounding runs later in the game. Sean Rodriguez hit a booming home run down the left field line off Sabathia to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. Rodriguez had a huge day, going 1 for 2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and 3 runs scored in addition to his home run. Three more runs came in the 6th on a Yunel Escobar RBI double and a James Loney 2-run shot, and Desmond Jennings finished the scoring with an RBI double in the 8th. So many times this year, we’ve seen the Rays offense put together one great inning but then go silent the rest of the game. This game, though, was in sharp contrast to that as they continued to tack on runs, and considering how bad the bullpen has been, it’s certainly lucky for them that they did.
The Rays had themselves a rough time in their series versus the Yankees, but it was nice that they were able to at least salvage a game and hopefully get themselves back on track. Hopefully this next series will go better as the Rays begin a home-and-home Citrus Series versus the Marlins beginning with two games at Tropicana Field. It’s a matchup of rookie right-handers as Jake Odorizzi takes on Jose Hernandez in a 3:10 PM Memorial Day matinee.