The Rays came into today’s matinee against the Toronto Blue Jays looking to get back to the formula that had us all raving in the first half of the season: just win series. Thursday’s rubber match saw Alex Cobb return to the hill for Tampa Bay, taking on the former Miami Marlin Tom Koehler.
After back to back games scoring six runs, the offense was quiet yet again, only scoring two runs, but luckily that’s all they needed!
They indeed came out victorious in the series, living the mantra of “Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad.”
The Pitching Staff Gets it Done
Cobb got right back to work after missing time with an injury and, while it wasn’t perfect, he pitched a good enough game to keep a potent Jays lineup scoreless and set the team up for the win.
He labored through 4.1 innings, needing 94 pitches to get even that far. His control wasn’t as good as it was before his injury, working into a few deep counts, but he managed to salvage many of those at bats, striking out five batters while only walking one and scattering four hits. The promising thing was that he kept the ball on the ground when contact was made, inducing six ground outs to only three fly balls, true to his game.
The bullpen came in and kept the sheet clean, with Steve Cishek, Brad Boxberger, Sergio Romo, and finally Alex Colome all combining for only two hits and a walk among them. Cishek had the toughest job of the bunch, inheriting a walked runner from Cobb before allowing a single of his own to put two men on with no outs in the fifth inning.
The Blue Jays made the interesting decision to have Darwin Barney bunt in that situation, down by one with the less-than-swift Miguel Montero as the lead runner. Barney bunted up the third base side where Cishek made the easy 1-5 putout to cut him down at third.
It was at that point in the game that Kevin Kiermaier did Kevin Kiermaier things in centerfield.
Steve Pierce, with two men on, hit a hard shot to right centerfield. KK was shaded to left and had about a country mile to cover if he even wanted a chance to field the ball off of the wall.
On a dead sprint, Kiermaier flashed the leather at the last possible second and snagged ball before tumbling to the ground and keeping it firmly in his grasp. The catch easily saved two runs from scoring and was yet another web gem from the Rays’ heroic centerfielder.
Immediately after, it appeared that the good work done by Kiermaier was immediately wasted on a double by Josh Donaldson down the line in left. Both runners came around to score and it looked like the Rays had choked away another late, flimsy lead; however, Kevin Cash challenged the ruling and replay came to the rescue! It was ruled after review that his line drive landed just foul and sent both runners back to the bases. Donaldson forced a walk to load the bases before Kevin Kiermaier worked his magic again, robbing Justin Smoak of a base hit and saving even more runs from crossing the plate.
Corey Dickerson clubbed his 24th homer of the season in the bottom of the eighth for insurance purposes before Alex Colome came on and locked down his league-leading 38th save of the year.
It’s a great start to an important stretch run, as the Rays sit just 3.5 games back of the last wild card spot, before the evening slate of games kicks off this evening.