When Things Fall Apart: Alex Cobb Starts Strong; Rays Lose To Red Sox, 5-2

September 17, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) reacts as manager Joe Maddon (70) takes him out of the game in the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight, the Rays made quite the statement: the season is over. I've been loathe to come out and say it, especially since we always want to hang on to hope as fans and root for the impossible, but the Rays made it perfectly clear tonight how they felt about the season. Tonight's game was a weak, apathetic display; the Rays played sloppy and nobody out there played with any sense of urgency.

The Rays mustered a mere seven baserunners, made three errors, and had an altercation in the dugout between Alex Cobb and Jose Molina. And, most frustrating to me, Evan Longoria wasn't even in the starting lineup due to feeling "a little heavy-legged". Listen, Maddon, I understand wanting to protect Longoria, but what are you protecting him for if the Rays don't make the postseason? With two weeks left in the season, Evan should be demanding to be in the lineup every day, hell or high water. And given the Rays' offense, he needs to be out there, unless you've already essentially given up.

What else is there really to say at this point? As Kevin succinctly stated this morning, this Rays team has lived and died by its pitching staff. When the pitching has been superb, the Rays have won and looked like a team that could be difficult to beat in the postseason. When their pitching has merely been adequate, though, the Rays have stumbled badly. Their offense has been so poor, if the other team has scored four runs or more, you can basically call the game. Tonight, the Rays couldn't muster any offense, and the pitching and defense was not dominant enough to get the job done.

The history book will eventually show that the Rays were officially eliminated from postseason contention in 2012 on some later date, but the truth is, tonight was the nail in the coffin. This team had two options after its most recent roadtrip: they could bounce back and make a late push for the postseason, or they could roll over and call it quits. They've apparently chosen the later.

After the game, Joe Maddon made sure to point out that we shouldn't blame a lack of intensity; it all comes down to the bats:

Again, to this I respond: where was Evan? Granted, we don't know how bad his legs still are -- maybe Evan's situation is a lot more fragile than we know -- but this team isn't going to score many runs without him out there. Oh, if only Longoria had been fully healthy this year...

Anyway, on to the bullet points:

  • Alex Cobb got the loss and ended up with a rotten final line, but for the first five innings, he was something special. Cobb had a no-hitter going entering the sixth inning, but that's when things all fell apart. He hit a batter and then allowed his first hit of the game: a two-run home run to Jacoby Ellsbury. He managed to get out of the sixth inning without any more damage, but he allowed the first two hitters to reach in the seventh, got pulled, and the bullpen couldn't stop the bleeding until three runs had scored.
  • I listened to the game on the radio and tuned in and out of the action, so I didn't follow things close enough to be able to comment on Maddon's decision making and strategy in many places. But why exactly did he attempt to have Pena and Roberts pull off a double steal in the fifth inning, when they had two runners on and only one out? It's a great play if you make it, but if you don't....oy.
  • The one highlight of the game: Steven Vogt throwing out Jacoby Ellsbury in the ninth inning. I can't claim that made up for the rest of the evening, but it was especially pleasing that it was Vogt gunning down Ellsbury. #FreeVogt is soaring!
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