Cobb hurls gem, but Rays eliminated after A's win

Cobb hurls gem, but Rays eliminated after A's win

Cobb hurls gem, but Rays eliminated after A's win
ST. PETERSBURG -- When Matt Wieters threaded a game-tying home run through the cutout section of Tropicana Field's left-field wall and into the "162 Landing," the Orioles seemed to take a bite out of the Rays' mojo Monday night.

Only a year ago, Evan Longoria had anointed the area as a sacred burial ground for game-winning homers when he deposited a walk-off home run into that same area in the final game of the 2011 season to propel the Rays into the playoffs.

Wieters' blast offered a taunt, or at the very least, a visual reminder that the Orioles were 2012's chosen ones and not the Rays.

"I didn't like [Wieters] taking advantage of our home cooking out there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

But rather than delivering a mood killer to the Rays, Wieters' homer felt like a wake-up call. And the team that just wouldn't go away dodged elimination with a 5-3 win over the Orioles with 13,666 watching. But it only lasted for a few hours, because the A's defeated the Rangers in Oakland to officially eliminate the Rays from postseason contention.

After Wieters' home run tied the game at 1 in top of the seventh, the Rays got busy in the bottom half of the inning.

Longoria led off and reached on an error by third baseman Manny Machado.

"Should have caught it," Machado said. "Took a little side spin on me, ate me up. Should've taken a step forward, but I should have made the out."

Jeff Keppinger then laced a single to right field to put runners at the corners. Ben Francisco then delivered a fly ball to left field, and everybody in the park figured the ball wasn't hit far enough to allow Longoria to score, as he has not been running at anywhere close to top speed since returning from a partially torn left hamstring.

But once left fielder Nate McLouth hauled in the fly ball, Longoria took off in a gritty dash for the plate to score the go-ahead run.

"It was right on the cusp, man, it really way," Maddon said. "A different arm out there might have been a little more difficult, but Longo's done a great job of getting the most out of his leg while protecting it at the same time."

Rich Thompson entered the game to pinch-run for Keppinger after Longoria scored, and then Sam Fuld bounced a single over the head of Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds to again put runners at the corners.

And yet another hero stepped forward. Chris Gimenez doubled to right, scoring both runners to put the Rays up, 4-1.

"Just trying to get a pitch to hit, a pitch to drive and not really let all the other factors kinda play into it," Gimenez said. "I was just trying to stay within my game plan, and thankfully I was able to do it."

Appropriately, the run support backed a superlative pitching performance by Alex Cobb. Wieters' blast was the only blemish on the 24-year-old right-hander's line as he allowed one run on two hits while walking two and striking out seven en route to his 11th win of the season.

Cobb appeared to thrive in the pressure situation.

"I think there was added adrenaline to it, but you try not to think about it," Cobb said. "You try to approach every game the same way. Tonight was no different. I tried to think like it was any other game. I'm always trying to compete no matter the circumstances, but there was probably a little bit of added adrenaline there tonight, so you have to make sure to calm yourself and not leave the ball up."

Maddon thought Cobb would pitch well.

"But that was a little bit above and beyond," Maddon said. "Because they're going pretty well and they weren't getting good swings against him. That tells you how good his stuff was. Even the takes weren't good. So you know his stuff is moving, you know he's putting it where he wants to. He was really, really good tonight."

Jake McGee pitched a scoreless eighth, and the Rays added a run in the bottom half of the inning when B.J. Upton scored on a fielder's choice by Carlos Pena to push the lead to 5-1. Kyle Farnsworth then surrendered a two-run homer to Chris Davis that hit off the "C-ring" catwalk to allow the Orioles to creep within two runs.

That's when the call went out to Fernando Rodney.

Adam Jones and Wieters greeted Rodney with back-to-back singles before the Rays' closer struck out Jim Thome and Reynolds and retired Endy Chavez on a ground ball back to the mound to end the threat.

Not only did Rodney earn his 47th save, he maintained his 0.61 ERA to remain tied with Dennis Eckersley for the all-time lowest ERA by a relief pitcher with a minimum of 50 appearances.

"They battled to the last drop," Maddon said. "They're Chase and Sanborn, man."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.