For what might be the first-and-last time, Rays fans saw themselves rooting for the Boston Red Sox last night, as they were playing the Yankees. If the Red Sox had swept the Yankees in their three-game series, things might have gotten interesting; instead, the Yankees took Boston's Clay Bucholz deep four times, tagging him for seven runs, and putting to rest any hope that the Rays would squeak in the postseason once again. Not knowing that once the game was underway, the Rays played as if they were in an ALDS elimination game.
Alex Cobb started tonight, and had his best start of the season, one which has been full of ups, downs, and frightening injuries. On paper, the Orioles shouldn't have the record they have and also shouldn't be able to contend with the Rays, who lead the AL in strikeouts and lead all the majors in the Runs Scored/Runs Allowed differential. But, like the Oakland A's have proved, paper and statistics have nothing to do with it once both teams take the field.
Cobb lasted seven solid innings, pitching a quality start and channeling his inner Verlander with the following statistics: 2 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 7 strikeouts. The one run he gave up was his only blemish on the night, a solo shot off the bat of Matt Weiters in the seventh inning. Mixing his pitches well and having surprisingly good command, Cobb was able to stifle some of the powerful bats that Baltimore has.
Wei-Yin Chen gave up the game's first run, which came off the bat of Ben Zobrist in the fourth inning, and was a pitch he would've loved to have had back. In the seventh, Chen was again struck hard: first he gave up a run on a Sacrifice Fly to Ben Francisco, putting the Rays back in front with a 2-1 lead. A couple batters later, Chris Gimenez laced a double to deep right field, scoring Rich Thompson and Sam Fuld, taking a cushioned 4-1 lead; a Carlos Pena groundout would score the fifth and final run for the Rays.
Kyle Farnsworth gave the team a scare when he gave up a two-run homer to emerging slugger Chris Davis in the 9th inning. At that time, Joe Maddon knew it was time to bring in Fernando Rodney, who was only a single out away from breaking a relatively unknown all-time record for a reliever. He answered the call and struck out two after giving up a couple hits, earning his 47th save, and solidifying himself as one of the three best closers in baseball this year. Even better, he now holds the single-season record for lowest ERA for a reliever who has pitched at least 50 innings; a feat I'm sure he's not too proud of right now, as he would love a shot in the postseason more than an individual record.
Even though there are two games left in the season for the Rays, it's important for them to finish strong; a message that Joe Maddon is undoubtedly preaching in the clubhouse now that the postseason is not in the cards. It was still one hell of a season for the Rays, especially given the fact that their star hitters were continuously ravaged by injuries (Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce to name a couple). To be in the hunt as late in the season as they were was a feat in and of itself, and the entire team should hold their heads high when the final out is recorded tomorrow night.
With so many bright futures on the pitching staff, as well as prospects in the minors, the Rays have years of good seasons ahead of them. It's best not to dwell on the past; rather, it is better to look forward toward the future. For the Rays, the future is bright in St. Pete.
Notable stats from last night's game:
A. Cobb: (W,11-9) 7 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 7 SO
B. Zobrist: 2-4, R, Solo HR, RBI
C. Gimenez: 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI
F. Rodney: (SV,47) IP, 2 H, 2 SO
Rays news and notes:
- Rays' closer Fernando Rodney broke the all-time, single-season record for Lowest ERA by a Reliever who has pitched at least 50 innings.