ST. PETERSBURG - RHP Alex Cobb returned to the Tropicana Field mound Sunday morning for the first time since he was struck on the right side of his head by a line drive June 15 against the Royals. Cobb, who sustained a concussion and developed vertigo from the injury, threw a round of live batting practice to OF Sam Fuld and team equipment manager Chris Westmoreland. "It's a relief," Cobb said about returning to the Trop's mound. "When the incident happens you think the worst, naturally, so getting back out there kind of settles your nerves a little bit and you realize you can do it again. I'm happy." Every member of the rotation except RHP Chris Archer, Sunday's starter, joined the crowd of Rays personnel around the batting cage.
"I'm watching him on the mound, there was no flinching, there was no nothing," manager Joe Maddon said. "He just pitched so I think that was a very good sign." Cobb threw about 45 pitches. He expects to throw another round of live BP on Thursday in Port Charlotte at the team's spring training complex. "It's amazing how quick you forget how to pitch, really, and when the batters get in there the intensity goes up quite a bit," Cobb said. "Body parts start flying in different directions that you're not used to. It takes a little while to get settled down. I felt toward the end of the session it got a lot better, so I was happy with it." Cobb said he wasn't hesitant when Fuld stepped in the box, knowing the last time he faced a batter - Kansas City's Eric Hosmer - he was felled by the line drive. "That was one pitch that that happened on," he said. "I've thrown millions of other pitches, so I think the subconscious remembers the other good pitches rather than the one bad, so it's not going to be in my thought process on the mound now and in the future." Escobar streaking SS Yunel Escobar left Sunday's game in the bottom of the eighth inning after sustaining what Maddon called a "slight strain" of his right hamstring while running out an infield hit. "I think he could have continued to play if we really needed him to," Maddon said. Escobar said he didn't think the injury was serious and that he expects to play Friday when the Rays begin a 10-game, three-city road trip in Toronto. Escobar also tied Chris Gomez's team record for consecutive errorless games at 52. Escobar was originally charged with an error in the second inning on a grounder by J.D. Martinez. The scoring decision was changed to a hit after the game. Escobar's last error came May 20 at Toronto. Escobar has committed four errors in 91 games. Rays shortstops made 16 errors at this point last season. Quality pitching Archer's complete-game shutout extended the club-record streak of quality starts to 15 games, the most in the majors since the A's turned in 18 straight in 2010. The Rays have allowed four runs or fewer in a club-record 10 consecutive games and had a 1.82 ERA during the homestand. "We're not going to go to the World Series this year if we don't pitch to the level that we're capable of," Maddon said. "At the beginning of the year it was a little bit hit-and-miss. Now we're getting back to those capabilities and they're being met. It's really fun to watch." Future Rays LHP Enny Romero allowed a run on two hits with a pair of strikeouts in his one inning for the World team, and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser pitched a perfect eighth inning for the U.S. in Sunday's All-Star Futures game at Citi Field. The U.S. won 4-2. Noteworthy DH Luke Scott extended his season-high hitting streak to 10 games with a fifth-inning double. . 3B Evan Longoria's first-inning RBI double was his 341st career extra-base hit, second-most in team history. Carl Crawford holds the team record with 424. . LF Kelly Johnson recorded his sixth three-hit game of the season. . The Rays outhit the Astros 70-37 and outscored them 38-14 while winning five of the seven games this season. The Astros did not score a run in the final 17 innings of the series.