Tampa Bay Rays
Cobb makes history in unusual Rays win
ST. PETERSBURG -
It was Star Trek Night at Tropicana Field on Friday night, and keeping with the theme Captain Alex Cobb boldly went were no major league pitcher has gone before.
The Tampa Bay Rays right-hander became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out 13 batters in appearance that lasted fewer than five innings - 4 2/3 innings to be exact.
"I can't really explain why or how that happened," Cobb said. "It was just one of those weird days."
That was part of an odd night at Tropicana Field that saw the Rays rally for a 6-3 interleague victory against the San Diego Padres in front of a crowd of 12,424.
Rays pitchers combined to strike out 18 Padres, tying the franchise mark for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Cobb tied Jeremy Hellickson's team record for most strikeouts in an inning with four.
"I couldn't have him have anything up on me," Cobb said.
The Padres scored a run in the third inning without putting the ball in play and with Cobb striking out all four batters who came to the plate.
The Rays' run of getting at least five innings from a starting pitcher since the beginning of the season was stopped at 34 when Cobb was lifted with two outs in the fifth inning and his pitch count at 117.
The bullpen, whose struggles have been well-documented, combined for 4 2/3 hitless innings with five strikeouts.
"It was an awkward game," manager Joe Maddon said. "It was a bizarre game, but we'll take it."
The win was the third straight for the Rays and moved them to within one game of .500 for the fourth time since April 10. The Rays haven't been at .500 since they were 3-3 on April 7.
The winning streak is the longest since they won four straight in mid-April.
The Rays rallied for four runs in the seventh inning, turning a 3-2 deficit into the 6-3 lead. That made a winner out of Jake McGee and allowed Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney to do their thing - shut down the Padres in the eighth and ninth innings.
It was the fifth save for Rodney.
Credit Josh Lueke, recalled earlier in the day when Brandon Gomes went on the disabled list with a right lat strain, with helping to build the bridge to Peralta and Rodney. He retired all four batters he faced, striking out two. And this after throwing 29 pitches in two innings for Triple-A Durham on Thursday night.
Ryan Roberts drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the seventh inning with a bases-loaded single to left field. Ben Zobrist drove home the final two runs with a bouncer up the middle.
The story, though, was Cobb and his unusual night.
"He wanted the ball to get put in play, but as a hitter it won't happen when the ball moves that much. Great job by him," Roberts said. "It was A-plus stuff."
Cobb allowed a pair of solo home runs during a 33-pitch first inning, and allowed another run in the third. He struck out leadoff hitter Will Venable, but the ball got past catcher Jose Lobaton and Venable was safe at first on a wild pitch. Cobb then struck out the next three batters (even though Venable ultimately scored thanks to two stolen bases and a balk) to end the inning, joining Hellickson as the only members of the Rays' four strikeouts in an inning club.
"I was mad at myself, very mad at myself for half that inning," Cobb said. "I gave up two stolen bases which I've been working hard on not to do. After that balk I don't know if I've been any angrier when I'm pitching than that."
The 13 strikeouts was a career high for Cobb. Along the way he became the first pitcher in team history to strike out nine batters in the first three innings of a game.
"His stuff was too good," Roberts said. "His stuff was moving so much that they just kept fouling the ball, foul ball, foul ball, foul ball. His pitch count got up. He had nine strikeouts in three innings. What do you say about that? That's impressive."
The Rays record for strikeouts in a game is 15, set by James Shields on Oct. 2, 2012 against the Baltimore Orioles during what became his final start as a Ray.
David Price struck out Toronto Blue Jays 14 on Aug. 28, 2011. Cobb is now tied with Price, Shields and Scott Kazmir for the fourth most strikeouts in a game in franchise history.
"Obviously that's not my goal," Cobb said. "(I'm) never going into a game trying to strike everybody out. I was trying to put the ball over the plate and trying to get weak contact and they're swinging and missing."
The Padres were also fouling off pitches, hence the high pitch count and Cobb's early exit.
Maddon said he couldn't let Cobb go any farther after he walked Yonder Alonso. Unless he got a quick out, Cobb's pitch count would have climbed into the 120s had he faced another batter.
"(It) was just a matter of what you think is the right thing to do in that moment," Maddon said. "I know all starting pitchers live and die by their win-loss record, but at the end of the day it's about the Rays, and for me, it's about the future of these players and you have to really look down the road.
"To have him injure himself because he's going to throw 125 pitches in five innings, that'd be on me. So you have to be careful."
Cobb began the night looking for his fifth win of the season. Instead, he left with an unusual (albeit historical) record.
"I don't know if that's a good thing," he said. "You kind of want to go five innings every time out. It's cool to have that after an outing that you're not too pleased with. Walking away you can shine a little light on it."