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Rays vs. Pirates, game one recap: Alex Cobb toys with a no-hitter

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Rays win in the messy end.

Tampa Bay Rays v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

There’s an old baseball saying that every [eight-inning one-hitter where the closer gets a blown save and a win] includes at least one amazing defensive play [by the new defensive whiz at shortstop]. I’m pretty sure that’s how the saying goes.

It was an odd sort of almost-no-hitter. Alex Cobb didn’t look amazing. He threw 98 pitches—63 fastballs, 32 curves, and 3 splitters—and only produced three whiffs all night. Sometimes he got the ball down, but other times it was up.

But he did work efficiently. Nine of the twenty six batters he faced were retired on the first two pitches.

Who knows? And who cares? Sometimes, your stuff is untouchable except for the times when they touch it, and your team loses anyway. Sometimes your stuff seems like it should be touched, and no one does.

Cobb took the no-hitter into the seventh inning before Josh Harrison flipped a short line drive into right field to break it up with a single. Andrew McCutchen also singled, and it seemed like the lead was in danger. But if there’s one thing that Cobb has been brilliant at this year, it’s been getting ground balls when he needs them. Cobb stayed away from the lefty, Bell, and came inside to the righty, Freese, and got both of them to groundout (Bell into a double play).

Backing Up The Pitching Performance

In the fourth inning, a pair of grounders into right field by Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison put runners at the corners with one out. Steven Souza Jr. bounced a grounder into the hole in the left side of the infield, just out of the reach of third-baseman David Freese’s glove. Shortstop Jordy Mercer got there, but with how softly the grounder was hit, and with Souza’s speed, the Pirates had no chance for a double play. Dickerson scored from third to put the Rays up 1-0.

Then the Rays pushed over an insurance run in the eighth, when Tim Beckham grounded past third just fair, but a fan reached over the wall to make it a ground rule double. Adeiny Hechavarria chopped the ball at third. It was a high bounce, just off the top of Freese’s glove. That touch slowed the ball down, and enabled Beckham to motor home to put the Rays up by two.

Is This Why We Have A Closer?

With the no-hitter off the table, and the top of the of the order up (after the nine-spot, which the Pirates were going to pinch hit for), Kevin Cash opted to pull his starter and turn the game over to closer Alex Colome. That’s a reasonable play. The times-through-the-order penalty is real.

But Colome has just not been good recently, and tonight, the command wasn’t there.

The first bad sign was when in an 0-2 count he hit pinch hitter John Jaso in the back of the head. Jaso’s dreadlocks gave some padding, but come on! This is a guy with a concussion history! Also it’s the leadoff batter in an 0-2 count.

After Bourjos (defensive replacement in center) tracked down a well-hit ball in the alley, Josh Harrison laced a line drive to the wall in right. Souza made a nice play on the carom and gave a strong throw to hold the runners at second and third, but it made no difference, as both came home on a McCutchen ground-ball double past third.

(Unimportant note: Longoria didn’t get to it, and there was one out, but if he had, and if there had been no outs, this was a triple play ball.)

Lolfense (But Good Baserunning!)

Felipe Rivero, the former Rays left-handed reliever prospect, came on to pitch the tenth inning, and immediately gave up a line drive single to Souza. Then Wilson Ramos grounded down the third base line.

It definitely looked like a possible double play. Maybe Freese tried to get it started too quickly. Whatever the reason, he missed on his backhand pickup, and the grounder dribbled down the left field line and into the corner. Souza, was running hard the whole way, and third base coach Charlie Montoyo made a fantastic read, giving the “Go home!” sign once the throw from left field was in the air, and not good enough. Souza scored.

After a wild pitch advanced the runners, Hechavarria hit a fly ball to left to sacrifice home another run.

This Is Why We Have A Closer!

Tommy Hunter finished out the game. Alex Colome got the win.

Some Other Notes:

  • Thank goodness for David Freese’s glove.
  • Wilson Ramos played catcher, and looked pretty good doing it, including a nice snap throw to first to nearly pick off Jaso.
  • There was an interesting sequence in the sixth inning where Tim Beckham, playing a new position (second base, rather than his usual shortstop) wasn’t sure where he was supposed to be. So Alex Cobb waited for it to get sorted out. And then the batter lined out to the properly positioned Beckham.