With a pair of starting pitchers posting +55% ground ball percentages, most of us figured that Wednesday night’s match-up between Alex Cobb and Doug Fister would be a pitching dual of the ages. However, I’m not certain if any of us would have foreseen a double shutout going into the eighth inning. Though one pitcher had to lose, both Cobb and Fister were excellent Wednesday night. If I may, it’s just a damn shame that Alex Cobb couldn’t be credited with the win; after all, Cobb was incredible.
Ultimately posting a 7.2 IP/5 H/0 H/0 R/3 BB/7 K line, Cobb threw 102 pitches (72 for strikes) after coming off a missed start because of a fingernail issue. Cobb was absolutely deadly with his change-up, throwing 34 of 42 for strikes (nine swings and misses). Aptly described as the split-change of destruction, Cobb used this as his put-away pitch for a handful of his seven strikeouts, making sluggers like Prince Fielder look like dear in the headlights. Cobb also impressively kept the ball down, inducing 12 ground-outs.
Joe Maddon called for the intentional walk of Miguel Cabrera on a couple of different occasions — a contentious pair of calls for many (editors note: I thought the strategy was perfect). But the results speak for themselves: twice they walked Miggy — in the sixth and eighth innings — to put runners in scoring position with two outs, and twice they negated the threat posed by Prince Fielder, getting the Tigers slugger to strike out swinging on an Alex Cobb change-up and a Joel Peralta splitter.
In the same manner that the Rays game plan against Detrot was perfect, so too was Fister and the Tigers’ plan against Tampa Bay. The Rays weren’t able to do much against the sinker baller, threatening to score only once between the first and ninth innings. And when the Rays did get on base, Fister was able to induce weak contact forcing the Rays into a pair of double plays. But someone had to score, and in the ninth inning Tampa Bay plated three runs.
Sam Fuld lead off the inning with a hard bunt up the first base line. But when a charging Price Fielder tried to tag Super Sammy, Fuld — somehow — was able slide/dive out of the way to get on base. Ben Zobrist followed that up with a sharply hit single to right, sending Fuld to third. With men on the corners and no outs, Matt Joyce hit a sac-fly to center which plated the Rays go ahead run, while Zobrist moved up to second on an errant throw home. The pressure was on Fister, and he assuredly felt it.
Fister quickly got ahead of Longoria, but yanked a wild pitch which sent Zobrist to third. After a pair of fouls and a ball, Longo shot an RBI double to left-field, giving the Rays an insurance run. Fister’s night was over at that point, but that wouldn’t be the end of the Rays scoring. Drew Smyly came on in relief of Fister, quickly getting James Loney to line out to short. Then with a runner in scoring position and two outs, Desmond Jennings shot a 1-0 triple to the right-center gap, giving the Rays a three-run lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Fernando Rodney came on to close the game out. Rodney was a bit shaky — something that could be blamed on having a few days off between outings. The Rays closer quickly walked Victor Martinez on six pitches, but was able to follow that up with a Jhonny Peralta swinging strikeout on a nasty 98 MPH fastball. Alex Avila was next, shooting a 1-1 single to right which moved Martinez to second. But Rodney was able to hold it together, striking out Omar Infante on an 86 MPH change-up, and following that with an Avisail Garcia foul-out to end the game. It may have taken 21 pitches, but Rodney was ultimately able to shoot the moon, now stringing together 6-1/3 consecutive innings of scoreless baseball.
The New What Next
Tampa Bay will attempt to take it’s third straight series on the road, in the rubber match of the three game set. Roberto Hernandez will take the mound for the Rays, opposite of a very tough Max Scherzer. It won’t be easy — Scherzer has been very good. But we all know how dangerous Hernandez can be when he’s able to locate his sinker and fastball. You can read about the pitching match-up here.
Rays 6/6/2103 Starting Lineup
- In seven starts following a Rays loss this year, Alex Cobb is now 5-1 with a 2.01 ERA.
- Per MLB Trade Rumors, the Rays have inked a minor league deal with catcher Jesus Flores to a minor league deal. Flores, 28, adds catching depth to the Rays organization, and will report to Triple-A Durham. Flores posted a .451 OPS in 80 plate appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque this season after the Dodgers signed him to a minor league deal in January. The catcher hit .241/.289/.375 over 1014 career PA in the Major Leagues with the Nationals since 2007.