ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb might have been slow out of the gate in the Rays' 4-0 loss to the Angels on Tuesday night, but the right-hander settled down to pitch like the bulldog Rays fans are used to seeing.
"Alex, he was phenomenal," Rays manager Kevin Cash. "He gives up two solo home runs [in the first] ... then he kicked it in gear and gave us every opportunity to come back. We just couldn't."
Yes, Cobb took the loss, and wasn't happy about it. Still, watching Cobb pitch like he did fueled hopes for the remainder of the season.
Having Cobb pitching more like the old Alex Cobb means deeper starts, conservation of the bullpen and better chances of winning.
Cobb surrendered back-to-back home runs to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout to start the game. After that, he got down to business.
Following Andrelton Simmons' two-out double in the first, Cobb retired the next seven batters he faced before the Angels threatened again.
Luis Valbuena singled to start the fourth inning and Simmons followed with a double to put runners at second and third with no outs. Cobb intentionally walked Kole Calhoun to load the bases. The strategy worked, as Cobb got Martin Maldonado to hit into a 1-2-3 double play before retiring Danny Espinosa on a groundout to first baseman Logan Morrison to end the threat.
Cobb worked efficiently throughout his stint, working through the seventh inning before taking the mound in the eighth. He retired the leadoff batter before walking Trout and surrendering a single to Albert Pujols, which marked the end of his outing.
Both runners scored, saddling Cobb with four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, and his fourth loss of the season.
"I liked that I was able to get some distance into the game," Cobb said. "Kind of difficult to go out there in the first and really put your team behind that quickly. But I'm definitely happy with the ability to get some quick outs and work into the eighth."
But Cobb was far from pleased with his outing. He elaborated on why he wasn't happy with Tuesday night's results.
"We lost the ballgame," Cobb said. "Got beat without being aggressive early on. And later in the game, some unfortunate guys I put on, with an uncompetitive pitch to Trout and I left the fastball up a little bit to Pujols. He was able to find a hole. And obviously, losing the ballgame is never easy to swallow."
Cobb continues to work primarily with the fastball-curveball combination, but hasn't really had the changeup at his disposal. That has been a source of angst for Cobb, who told reporters he's tired of talking about not having his change.
"I threw a couple of [changeups]," Cobb said. "They're getting there. I don't know what else to say about the pitch. ... I'm able to go out there and compete with what I've got, but it's definitely going to be a lot easier when I get it all ironed out. ... I used to throw 33-percent changeups, and now I'm throwing two or three a game."
Cobb was his own worst critic Tuesday, but the quality of his work did not go unnoticed.
"He pitched a good game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Getting early runs are always important, but as you can see, if you let him settle in, he knows how to pitch and knows what he's doing. He pitched a great game for those guys."
And that bodes well for the Rays as their season unfolds.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.