CLEVELAND – The Tampa Bay Rays road show continues. Next stop: Boston.
The Rays are headed there after winning another elimination game on the road, this one against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night at sold-out Progressive Field, where a sea of red-clad, white-towel waving Indians fans proved that Cleveland does, indeed, rock.
But so does Alex Cobb, who didn't have his best stuff and still didn't give up a run.
And so does Delmon Young, who hit another October home run.
And Desmond Jennings, whose two-run fourth inning double proved to be the biggest hit of the game.
It was the Rays 4, the Indians 0 in the AL Wild Card game.
“Holy cow,” Matt Moore said. “What a great night for the Rays.”
The Rays now head to Boston for the American League Division Series that begins Friday afternoon at Fenway Park.
Moore is scheduled to start Game 1 for the Rays.
“It's always going to be a battle playing those guys, especially in Fenway,” Jennings said. “But we're going to go out and play our game and hopefully come out with a victory.”
This is the second postseason matchup between two AL East rivals. They met in the 2008 AL Championship Series with the Rays winning in seven games.
Wednesday's win marked the second time the Rays have advanced in the postseason, the first since they reached the World Series in 2008.
Naturally, the visitor's clubhouse at Progressive Field smelled of champagne as the Rays sang Pitbull's “Don't Stop the Party” over and over.
“This is nothing,” Yunel Escobar said with Jose Molina translating. “We want to celebrate at home with the fans.”
Cobb, who did not hide his desire to pitch in the Rays biggest game of the season, did not have his best stuff but powered his way through 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
“From the second I stepped out on the field to go warm this crowd was electric,” Cobb said. “I haven't experienced anything like that in the past. … It took me a few innings to really figure out how to harness that and slow things down on the mound. But when it's a situation like this you can allow a lot of thoughts to go through your mind and you have to really be present and not allow those thoughts to creep into your mind and slow down and just execute pitches.
“Maybe it was a good thing I got in some jams because it did make me slow down a couple of times and execute a big pitch when I needed to.”
Cobb found himself in trouble during the fourth and fifth innings but pitched his way out of both. He took a shutout into the seventh inning before Rays manager Joe Maddon turned it over to the bullpen.
“(Cobb) pitched pretty darn good without all of his normal weapons,” Maddon said.
From there it was Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney.
Rodney retired the Indians in order in the ninth to secure the Rays first postseason shutout since Moore and two relievers combined to blank the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the 2011 AL Division Series.
“That's what Cobb's been doing for us all year,” Moore said. “You can count on seven strong innings and that's exactly what he gave us. In this atmosphere and with the fans they brought and how well they were playing up until this game, you can't ask for more than what he did.”
The Indians caught and passed the Rays for first place in the Wild Card standings last weekend as they finished the regular season with 10 consecutive wins.
Young opened the scoring in the third inning when he homered on the first pitch he saw from Indians rookie Danny Salazar.
It was Young's ninth postseason home run, since 2011 – the most in the majors during that span.
The Rays added two more runs in the fourth when Jennings doubled inside the third base bag, scoring James Loney and Evan Longoria. A RBI single by Escobar in the ninth inning finished the scoring.
The Indians threatened in the fourth and fifth innings, but Cobb pitched his way out of both jams.
Carlos Santana doubled with one out in the fourth and moved to third on a single by Michael Brantley. That brought Ryan Raburn to the plate. The right fielder had double to center off Cobb in his first at-bat. He drew a walk this time around to load the bases.
But Cobb got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground to Loney, and the Rays first baseman started a 3-6-1 double play.
The Indians were back at in the fifth inning when a double by Yan Gomes and a single by Lonnie Chisenhall put runners on the corners with no out and the top of the order due up.
Cobb began the escape by getting Michael Bourn to strike out. Nick Swisher then hit a one-hopper to Loney. This time Loney stepped on first base for the out then threw home to catcher Jose Molina.
Gomes, who was three-quarters of the way down the third base line, hustled back to third. Longoria, playing over toward second base because the Rays employed the shift against the left-handed hitting Swisher, couldn't get over in time to make a play on Gomes.
Loney saved a run by throwing home, but the Indians had runners on second and third with two outs.
The Indians fans were whipped into a towel-waving frenzy until Jason Kipnis bounced back to Cobb to end the inning.
“He didn't want to be in those situations but he was and stayed calm,” Molina said. “I told him you're one pitch away, make the pitches, and he responded very well. He was a little bit up, but in those situations he came back with the big pitches.”
Cobb said Molina helped him through those troubles by being creative.
“He called for curveballs in situations I wouldn't normally throw a curveball,” Cobb said. “We were in a big jam and we needed a pitch he (call for) a changeup. I executed every once in a while, but for the most part he got creative and got me out of some big situations.”
The Rays have now won three consecutive elimination games in three different cities in two countries and two time zones.
“All in enemy territory,” Maddon said. “I'm so proud of our guys.”
They beat the Blue Jays on Sunday in Toronto to set up the one-game tiebreaker Monday in Texas. They beat the Rangers that night to advance to the one-game Wild Card game, which was added to the postseason events in 2012.
“We played loose,” Jennings said. “We feel like we can win any game, any place, any time.”
Jennings said the Rays tough scheduled during the final two weeks – Texas and Baltimore at home and New York and Toronto on the road – helped them prepare for playing Monday's tiebreaker in Texas and Wednesday's Wild Card game in Cleveland.
Cobb said surviving the early September struggles that began out West helped once the Rays turned things around on the final homestand.
“Something clicked,” Cobb said. “We got hot. We're bringing that into the postseason right now. We've been facing elimination games, out back was against the wall in Game 162, 163. We wouldn't have it any other way. I think it makes us bear down, and we really enjoy the pressure.”