ST. PETERSBURG - With his father in attendance, the last thing Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb wanted was a repeat of his previous three starts, when he left the game trailing and suffered consecutive losses.
And after his pregame bullpen session Sunday, he wasn’t convinced he would be around long on Father’s Day against the Miami Marlins.
But pregame was deceiving as Cobb turned in one of the best outings of his career, shutting out Miami through seven innings as the Rays bounced back from a 15-inning loss Saturday and defeated the Marlins, 3-0.
"When I started throwing in the bullpen, I felt horrible," said Cobb, who struck out a career-high 10 batters. "I thought it was going to be a short night. Sometimes, that’s when you throw your best because you are focused on every pitch. It turned out to be good."
Cobb couldn’t find one good thing about the bullpen session.
"I wasn’t locating my fastball," he said. "I wasn’t even coming close on my curveballs. Thankfully, it made me zero in more than anything else."
The right-hander was nearly perfect. Cobb (3-3) threw 100 pitches, 69 for strikes, allowing two hits, one walk and one hit batter to go with his 10 strikeouts.
"One hundred pitches has kind of been his Waterloo," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I decided to get him out after seven and move it on. He was really, really good."
Cobb was able to correct one of his biggest problems during the personal losing streak – getting the final out in an inning.
"I think he gets quick sometimes," Maddon said. "He gets a couple quick outs and then he gets quick mentally and wants that third out so fast. He just has to maintain that same tempo that got him through those first two outs."
Against the Marlins, he had some trouble as three of Miami’s four base runners reached with two outs. But this time, Cobb left them stranded.
While his teammates were in the middle of a five-hour game Saturday into early Sunday, Cobb was home, as is customary for the starting pitcher of a day game after a night game. He was not, however, resting comfortably.
"I stayed up and watched the whole game. I couldn’t turn it off," he said. "I was watching the bullpen work all night while I was in my bed. I figured the most I could do was go out and put up a few quality innings and save some arms."
And he did. By getting seven strong innings, Maddon only needed to use Joel Peralta (eighth, 16th hold) and closer Fernando Rodney (ninth, 19th save).
After Cobb retired the Marlins in order in the first, B.J. Upton, hitting in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, crushed a Josh Johnson 3-1 pitch over the leftfield wall and the Rays quickly had a 1-0 lead.
"(Saturday) was a long night and that game kind of left a bad taste in our mouth," Upton said. "It was good to bounce back. You have to jump out on a pitcher like Josh Johnson. He’s an all-star for a reason."
While Cobb mpwed down the Marlins inning after inning, the Rays kept pressure on Johnson (4-5). The Rays, who remained in third place, 3½ games behind the Yankees, had runners on base in every inning but the eighth.
Elliot Johnson, the Rays’ designated hitter, worked a two-out walk in the sixth, stole second and scored on a single by Drew Sutton.
Upton scored the final run when he reached second on a fielding error by Marlins first baseman Gabby Sanchez, who couldn’t grab the throw from third baseman Hanley Ramirez. Zobrist followed with a single to center to drive in Upton.
Tampa Bay Rays
Cobb, Upton lead Rays to 3-0 win over Marlins