In this lost season for the Tampa Bay Rays, tonight’s game was filled with mixed emotions. The frustration of not being able to score a single run in 10 innings the night before carried over for another seven innings tonight. But in the home half of the eighth inning, the Rays, playing the smallest of small ball, mixed in a walk with three singles to eke out a 1-0 lead with no outs. After Logan Forsythe grounded a sharp ball to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy that forced an out at the plate, catcher Ryan Hanigan lined a single to left that drove in two runs to give the Rays the 3-0 lead that they took into the ninth.
Both Rays’ starter Alex Cobb and Orioles’ starter Wei-Yin Chen pitched brilliantly. Cobb went 7.0 scoreless innings, scattering 6 hits, striking out 6, and walking 1 while Chen let up 4 hits and 3 walks over 6.0 shutout innings. After Cobb’s command was inconsistent early in the year, it has become much more consistent in the last couple of months, and that has led to dominance. Since the beginning of July, Cobb has a meager 1.67 ERA, and once again his command was on-point for this entire start.
After seven solid scoreless innings, Joe Maddon lifted Cobb for Brad Boxberger, who looked brilliant in striking out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth. Then Jake McGee came on in the ninth to strike out the side, which was the meat of the Orioles lineup – Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis. That was an impressive outing for McGee, but one we have become used to over this season (he has a minuscule 1.25 ERA on the year).
As I watched this game, it hit me that tonight was an example of why we thought this season was going to be magical. I saw a lot of what is right with the Rays. There was a great, strong, bulldog like performance by the now ace of the staff, Alex Cobb. Effective relief pitching by the back-end of the bullpen locked down the game, and timely hitting to scored enough runs to squeak out the win.
Taking the first game in the weekend series against the A.L. East leaders shows there’s no quit in these Rays, even when they are struggling. The Rays and Orioles will face square off again on Saturday at 1:05 ET, with Drew Smyly taking on Kevin Gausman.