Cobb's seven strong give Rays series vs. Jays

Cobb's seven strong give Rays series vs. Jays

Cobb's seven strong give Rays series vs. Jays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays that he expected things to start going his team's way.

After all, throughout the first half the season, the team's disabled list was crowded and it was just a few games above .500.

Maddon might just be on to something.

Tampa Bay clinched its fourth series out of its last five by beating Toronto, 3-2, at Tropicana Field with eight players reaching base in the game.

Woes at this ballpark are nothing new for the Blue Jays, who have lost 16 consecutive road series against the Rays.

"We seem to struggle, for some reason, ever since I've been playing here the past two years, playing in this park," Jays starter Carlos Villanueva said. "We have to manufacture some runs. Our offense is missing some key guys. As pitchers, we need to have the game under control."

B.J. Upton helped pace the offense on the night, going 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run.

Starting pitcher Alex Cobb, coming off a win after three straight losses, picked up another victory by throwing seven innings of one-run baseball on five hits and two hit batters to go with seven strikeouts.

"That was the best curve I've seen all year from any of our pitchers," Maddon said. "That was a big league curveball. He threw his fastball for a strike, but that set up the changeup, the changeup worked off of that ... I think his curveball set the whole game up for him."

The back-to-back wins, in both of which he allowed just one run, are the first consecutive wins since May 25 for Cobb.

"Once you figure out what you were doing wrong, you feel like that was the key reason as to why you were failing," Cobb said of his recent turnaround. "You have a lot of confidence when you go out there and you know your stuff is good enough to put out these hitters."

The stellar pitching performance is nothing new to the Tampa Bay staff, which has allowed two or fewer runs in eight of the past 10 games.

"We're having a blast," Cobb said. "It's a roll right now, we're all feeding off each other, rooting hard for each other in the dugout. It's just a fun atmosphere to be in. Being in a role like this, you definitely don't want to be a ripple in the water."

Evan Longoria was the lone Ray not to reach base in the game, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and grounding into a double play. On the double play, Longoria jogged to first base, just as Maddon advised him to do.

"I don't want anything more than that," Maddon said. "That's what you're gonna see, that's what you're gonna get until he's well. There's nothing wrong with that."

Maddon said prior to the game Longoria's status for Thursday's day game would be based off of how much running he did Wednesday. After the win, he was still unsure if Longoria will be fit to play in the series finale.

Toronto pushed the first run across in the third when Edwin Encarnacion hit a one-out sacrifice fly to left field with runners on the corners, bringing in Rajai Davis.

That lead didn't last for long, as Desmond Jennings and Upton hit back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the frame to even up the score. Matt Joyce knocked a single to put runners on the corners with no outs. Longoria hit into a double play, but plated Upton to give Tampa Bay the lead.

Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena then both walked and Jeff Keppinger knocked a single up the middle that brought in Zobrist from second. The inning finally ended when Jose Molina flied out to left field.

Villanueva fared well outside of the three-run third inning, pitching six innings on the night with the three runs against him on six hits and three walks to go with seven strikeouts.

"I kept it close and we made it close in the end, but they outpitched us today," Villanueva said.

Cobb cruised through the rest of his start, allowing just one hit in his last four innings before Joel Peralta came in for him in the eighth.

Fernando Rodney came in for the ninth and gave up a homer to David Cooper, ending his scoreless innings streak at 22. The closer was able to convert his Major League-best 34th save on the year, though.

"It's unfortunate that it ends that way, but he's throwing strikes, he's challenging hitters," Maddon said. "For the most part, contact has not been hard contact against him either, which speaks to his stuff."

Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.