Woo! This was some old timey pitch-the-ball catch-the-ball baseball, and it was super fun to watch.
It also helps that the Rays won.
Alex Cobb went seven and two-thirds innings, giving up just two hits and one walk while recording three strikeouts. Much like last time out, he succeeded by avoiding mistakes instead of dominating hitters. He didn’t have great swing-and-misses stuff. Though the splitter was more present than last time (he threw it 19 times and had some decent depth on it), he still relied heavily on his fastball and knuckle-curve to very good effect.
But mostly, he relied on his defense. Which today was a pretty good idea.
In the second inning, Adeiny Hechavarria did this:
In the fifth, Hech made this “are you kidding me?” play:
It got to be contagious. Mallex Smith ran down one in the triangle early in the game, then gave us all a nice dab. Shane Peterson made a sliding grab in the fifth (at least I think it was the fifth, they all sort of ran together after a while) that I’m not sure ever actually ended up in his glove. It continued all the way up to the last hitter Cobb faced, when Steven Souza Jr. made a nice running snag of a Tzu-Wei Lin liner in the eighth with a runner of first.
Even Cobber got in on it himself in the seventh:
The Red Sox put four runners on against Cobb (two singles, a walk, and a Brad Miller error), none of which moved past first base.
Of course, all of that would have been for naught if the Rays didn’t actually score, which proved problematic against Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, though not for lack of chances. Porcello worked a CG of the eight inning variety (which no pitcher likes to do), striking out seven, hitting two batters, and walking no one, while scattering six hits.
And “scattering” is the operative word here.
Mallex Smith singled to lead off the first, but ended up being stranded at third.
Evan Longoria was hit by a pitch with one out in the third, but moved no further than first base.
It was Shane Peterson’s turn in the fourth. He was left on after a two-out single.
Things got moderately interesting in the fifth. Evan Longoria doubled to right with two outs, then waltzed into third against the shift with his third (?!?) stolen base of the year. Unfortunately, he too was stranded when Logan Morrison struck out.
Mallex Smith made it interesting in the seventh when he hit a liner to what looked to be straight away center. But because of the strange outfield shift the Red Sox were playing, it split the defense and rolled to the wall as if it was in the alley. Mallex flew around the bases with an easy triple, and likely gets sent home if there was any trouble at all retrieving the ball in the outfield. Corey Dickerson followed by slapping a grounder the other way that looked for a moment like it might find a hole, but Xander Bogaerts did his best Derek Jeter impression and jump-threw out Dickerson to end the threat.
The only run the Rays managed against Porcello was way back in the second, and honestly, it wasn’t all that exciting.
Souza and Miller strung together back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, putting runners on first and second. Hechavarria followed by grounding to Bogaerts for an apparent (and very close) 6-4-3 double play. But the Rays challenged the play, claiming that Hech beat the throw. Replay determined that the Rays were right, and the rally continued with runners at the corners and one out.
After a Shane Peterson hit by pitch on a 1-2 curveball at his foot, Jesus Sucre came to the plate. Sucre just missed squaring up a 1-0 slider and sending it a long way for a grand slam, but still got it plenty deep enough to score Souza on the sac fly. Then Mallex struck out to end the inning.
I told you it wasn’t all that exciting. But it was effective! 1-0 Rays.
With a runner on and two outs in the eighth, Alex Colome was called on to record the four out save. He quickly fell behind Mookie Betts (history’s fourth best Mookie by my rankings, behind Mookie Wilson, Mookie from All the Right Moves, and Mookie Blaylock the original name for Pearl Jam, but ahead of Mookie Blaylock the actual basketball player for which Mookie Blaylock was named, and where was I? Oh yes, the count to Betts was) 3-0. Betts got the 3-0 green light, but couldn’t square up a 95 mph fastball, flying out harmlessly to defensive replacement Peter Bourjos to end the inning.
It did not get more relaxing in the ninth.
After a Dustin Pedroia ground out, Bogaerts worked a walk after a couple very close check swings. Mitch Moreland followed. Colome got ahead of Moreland 0-2, then went for the punch out. He appeared to get it on a good cutter, but Jerry Meals (ugh) ruled no swing. With new life, Moreland then proceeded to double off the wall in right. Souza continued the good defense theme, however, playing it barehanded and firing it back in, holding Bogaerts at third.
This had a terrible, awful, yet familiar feel to it, and you had to wonder if Alex Cobb wasn’t measuring a horse head for Colome’s bed. But to his credit, even with omens swirling everywhere, Alex Colome put on his big boy pants. He struck out Hanley Ramirez on four pitches, taking advantage of a clearly aggressive HanRam.
A smart intentional walk to Andrew Benintendi loaded the bases and brought Chris Young to the plate. Young popped a 2-2 cutter to Hech for out number three, and Rays fans everywhere, peering through their fingers at their television screens, breathed sighs of relief.
The Rays go for the series win tomorrow at 1:10 PM.