"Don't look now, Jose, but I think Longoria is back." Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Depth can be a funny thing. Ship captains don't shudder as they pass over the Mariana trench. No one takes soundings to make sure they don't drop off the continental shelf. No, depth is only noticeable when it's not there. There have been some problems this season. Will Rhymes against lefties and Brooks Conrad were big, honking sandbars. Hideki Matsui was the great barrier reef. But there were also injuries we barely noticed. Jeff Niemann pitched great and then he broke his leg. Jeremy Hellickson missed starts. Didn't matter.
It didn't matter, in large part, because of Alex Cobb. Cobb doesn't blow you away, but that's your fault, not his. He looks like the a back of the rotation starter, pounding the zone with his 89 mph fastball and hoping for groundballs. And then he goes and pitches eight innings of one run ball with seven strikeouts and no walks. In his 102 pitch performance, he threw 44% fastballs, 30% changeups, and 26% curves. None of his pitches got huge whiff totals, but what he did do was throw strikes, particularly with his secondary offerings. In fact, he actually threw his change and his curve for strikes more often than his fastball.
Of course, the other side of Cobb's game is ground balls, and he was burning the worms tonight. It was an auspicious start when the first six batters hit grounders (one for a hit). In the third inning though, Cobb made a mistake when he plunked Rajai Davis. He went to work on the next batter, Colby Rasmus, getting up in the count before inducing a grounder. Unfortunately, it went for a single, not a double play. Davis would later score on a sack fly.
The Rays offense though, newly confident with their influential leader back at the plate, decided to pick up Cobb in their half of the inning. Back to back doubles from Jennings and Upton leveled the score, and Joyce hit a single to put runners at first and third for the fearsome Longoria. Who hit into a run-scoring double play. Not all returns are personally triumphant. Zobrist and Pena walked before Keppinger singled Zobrist home to give Cobb a two run lead.
And you know how the saying goes: "If you give a Cobb a two run lead, he gets too big for his britches, and he puts on David Price's britches." Cobb came back out and struck out the side in the top of the fourth.
One other key moment in the game came in the seventh inning, when Kelly Johnson doubled and was bunted over to third. With the narrow lead threatened by the bottom of the Toronto order, Jim Hickey came out to talk things over. Cobb responded by striking out the next two batters in a combined eight pitches, with both Ks coming on his nasty split-change.
- It was a good thing Cobb was able to hold Johnson at third. The usually untouchable Fernando Rodney gave up a homer to David Cooper. That's okay. Rodney may sometimes allow runs. It's just nice when it happens with a two run lead.
- Besides his clutch double play, Longoria also struck out three times. Good to have you back, Evan.
- The Rays will go for the sweep tomorrow against Henderson Alvarez and his 4.65 SIERA.