Tampa Bay Rays
Longoria, Zobrist lead Rays past Oakland
ST. PETERSBURG -
One look at the American League standings told the Rays it was time to get serious. They responded with a laugher. Returning home from a 2-7 road trip, Tampa Bay batted around in a four-run first inning Friday night and cruised to an 8-3 victory against the Oakland A's behind a solid start by Alex Cobb. The loudest cheers of the evening came in the top of the seventh, when an announced crowd of 15,115 at Tropicana Field glanced at the Jumbotron in right field and learned that the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing plot had been taken into police custody. "Good day all around," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. The Rays began the day at 5-10, six games out of first place in the East with a team batting average of.217. The A's, who had been 6-0 on the road and 12-4 overall, promptly grabbed a 2-0 lead against Cobb in the top of the first on RBI hits by Jed Lowrie and Brandon Moss. That wasn't a good sign for a Rays team off to its worst 15-game getaway since 2005, but Oakland starter Brett Anderson was raked for four hits in the bottom of the inning. Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez each drove in a run before Jose Lobaton's two-run single with two out capped the uprising and reversed a few trends. It was the first hit for the Rays with the bases loaded all season, snapping an 0-for-12 streak, and marked the first time Oakland has allowed a bases-loaded hit this year. Lobaton entered the game without an RBI in 18 at-bats, but it was that kind of a night for a Rays team determined to regain its equilibrium after a 1-5 stretch. "After the first inning, giving up two runs, you know it's going to be a grind," Cobb said. "When the team turns around and gives you four runs to play with, I can't tell you how much easier it makes pitching. You're able to attack hitters and work deep into the game." The early outburst was a welcome sight for the Rays, who had been outscored 27-11 through the first three innings this season. Ryan Roberts drove in a third-inning run with a bloop single to make it 5-2, and Tampa Bay added three runs in the fourth against Evan Scribner. After Desmond Jennings walked, stole second and scored on Zobrist's second RBI single, Evan Longoria launched his fourth home run in the last five games to put the Rays ahead 8-2. After hitting only five home runs in their first 12 games, the suddenly robust Rays have bashed 10 homers in four games. "You can't hold that guy down," Rays first baseman Sean Rodriguez said, referring to Longoria. "The A's have been swinging the bats very well all year, and Cobby did a heck of a job finding a rhythm." The A's reached Cobb for 10 hits in 761/37 innings, but he settled down nicely and walked only one batter in improving to 2-1. Mixing his pitches effectively, Cobb displayed good command of his 90-mph fastball and blanked Oakland from the second inning on until Coco Crisp hit a two-out solo homer in the seventh. Lowrie, who has struggled against the Rays throughout his career, went 4-for-4 against Cobb, raising his batting average to .413 this season. It was Lowrie's one-out double in the eighth that ended Cobb's evening. Jamey Wright faced one batter, hitting Moss, before Kyle Farnsworth came on and quelled Oakland's threat. Fernando Rodney replaced Farnsworth after Josh Donaldson led off the Oakland ninth with a single, and things got interesting when Rodney issued a pair of walks to load the bases with none out. A strikeout and a double-play grounder back to Rodney finally finished off the feisty A's, who left nine runners stranded on the bases. Dating to July 6, 2012, Cobb has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 17 of his past 18 starts. "We had a good look about us tonight," Maddon said, "and I appreciate the effort among the boys."