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Rays 4, Mariners 1; In Which Alex Cobb Throws Strikes

Sam Fuld played center field while B.J. Upton got the night off, serving as the DH. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
Sam Fuld played center field while B.J. Upton got the night off, serving as the DH. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

If you needed to choose one term to describe Alex Cobb, that term would might be "strike thrower." Yes, he gets groundballs at an elite rate (57.9%), and yes he strikes out enough batters to be dangerous (6.70 K/9). Those are the reasons why his bulldog approach works. But at his very essence, he's a guy who pounds the zone. This game was a fantastic example, as Cobb threw a first pitch strike to the first 20 batters. He lived up in the count. When he threw balls, it was usually because he had gotten to two strikes and he was trying to get the batter to chase. Cobb gave up one run on four hits in seven innings, striking out five batters and walking two. Of the 19 balls put in play against him, 13 were grounders.

When I recapped an Alex Cobb start last, I noticed that he threw both of his secondary offerings for strikes at a greater percentage than he did his fastball. This isn't something he's done overall on the year, but with two dominant outings in a row displaying the trend, I wonder if it's a more than just coincidence. If it is, it's an interesting approach.

As for the offense, the Rays only showed some for one inning, but it was enough. In the third, Fuld got things started with a foul ball home run, and then followed it up with a hard liner into right field. There might not be much power in his tiny frame, but it's not for lack of bat speed. His hands are very quick. His feet are pretty quick as well, as Fuld immediately stole second and then came home on a Desmond Jennings single down the third base line.

Next, Upton grew tired of the small ball, and belted a two-run homer into the second deck in left. He had looked really bad on several Blake Beavan sliders in a row, but Beavan hung one, and B.J. made him pay. Joyce followed the Upton's shot up with a single pulled through the right of the infield, and Zobrist brought him home when he hit an authoritative fliner out over Michael Saunders's head in left center for a stand up double.

Additional notes below the jump.

  • Cobb's only hiccup came in the fifth, when Trayvon Robinson lead off the inning with a fly ball that found the hole between Fuld in center and Jennings in left. It bounced high off the wall, and although Fuld played the carom well, Robinson made it to third easily. Trayvon Robinson is very fast, which must be nice for him. Doesn't look like he's enjoying his wheels, though. Dude really never smiles. Robinson scored the lone running of the game for the Mariners, but I don't think it made him happy.
  • In the bottom of the fifth, with Eric Thames on first, Jose Molina blocked a pitch in the dirt. Thames thought about going to second, but his thought was ill advised. That moment of hesitation was enough for Molina to barehand the bouncing ball and throw Thames out as he dove back into first.
  • In the same inning, Zobrist made a nice play on an awkward bouncing ball to shortstop. He showed excellent footwork by coming around the ball as he charged it so that he received it heading toward first base and could get off a good throw on the relatively speedy Brendan Ryan. I'm sure Zorilla isn't the greatest of shortstops (or he would have been played there long ago), but he looked pretty decent. Apparently the solution to the Rays' shortstop problem is the same as the solution to all Rays position problems: put Zobrist there.
  • In the top of the ninth, Sam Fuld struck out on a horrible swing with Molina running (meaning it must have been a hit and run. Montero's throw was high, though, and Molina was able to fall/slide under the tag. It wasn't quite Kelly Shoppach form, but it wasn't bad, either.
  • In the bottom of the ninth, John Jaso thought he had drawn a walk when he took a Fernando Rodney changeup off the outside of the plate. He started running to first, but the umpire rung him up. Jaso was right in that the pitch was a ball. He was wrong in thinking he had drawn a walk. The count was 2-2.

The Rays Tank

  • Here come the Rays says Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. He details how the Rays are winning with a bunch of nobodies and a few standout performances. If you read this site then you're rather familiar with all of that, but it's nice to see the Rays praised on a more national stage.
  • Friday night a Delorean was seen in the waters of McCovey Cove in San Fransisco. Yesterday Jose Canseco tweets that time travel IS possible. These two things must be related Larry Granillo has your visual proof.
  • Jayston Stark of ESPN says Aroldis Chapman should win the NL Cy Young. I'm not a big fan of relievers winning the award, but he makes an interesting case.