Yunel Escobar & Rays Defense Back Alex Cobb As Rays Defeat Jays 4-3
The Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 to improve their record to 24-21. The victory went to Alex Cobb (5-2, 2.73 ERA) and Fernando Rodney picked up his 9th save. Ramon Ortiz (1-2, 4.08 ERA) took the loss and the Blue Jays record drops to 18-27. The Rays are now 4-1 on their 6 game road trip and have 19 of their past 30 games.
The Rays scored a pair of runs in both the 2nd and 3rd innings including solo homers by Kelly Johnson and Desmond Jennings in staking Alex Cobb to an early 4 -0 lead. Cobb's only mistake of the evening came in the fifth inning when he allowed a solo homer to Colby Rasmus. At 107 pitches on the evening and after an Evan Longoria error put a man at 2nd with 1-out in the 7th Cobb was replaced by Jake McGee who retired both hitters he faced to end the threat.
Despite 10 hits the Rays offense was unable to sustain a large inning as they grounded into four double plays on the night. Ben Zobrist in the 1st, Evan Longoria in the 5th, Kelly Johnson in the 6th, and Desmond Jennings in the 7th. The failure to add on runs against the Blue Jays bullpen nearly cost the Rays as the Blue Jays mounted a pair of late rallies.
Tonight was Joel Peralta's turn to have a rocky outing as he came on to work the 8th inning with the Rays holding a 4-1 lead. Munenori Kawasaki started the inning with a single and Melky Cabrera followed with a walk to bring Jose Bautista to the plate representing the tying run. Bautista wasn't greedy and lined a single to right field to score Kawasaki and cut the Rays lead to 4-2.
Peralta struck out Edwin Encarnacion for the first out of the inning and looked to have the inning ending double play ball but Ryan Roberts was unable to make a smooth transition to Yunel Escobar and everyone was safe. With the bases loaded and J.P. Arencibia due up Joe Maddon decided to go to Fernando Rodney for the opportunity for a 5-out save.
With the bases loaded Rodney challenged Arencibia with a 98-mph fastball that Arencibia grounded to Ryan Roberts who fed Yunel Escobar with Adam Lind barreling in on him. Escobar took the feed and did a scissors jump and threw a strike to James Loney to complete the double play and kept the Rays lead in tact at 4-2.
With the heart of the order out of the way Fernando Rodney should have had an easy time in the 9th inning but it wasn't to be. After striking out Brett Lawrie for the first out he gives up a ground rule double to Colby Rasmus who advanced to 3rd on a ground ball to Ryan Roberts and came in to score on a wild pitch to cut the Rays lead to 4-3.
The last thing Rodney wanted to do was walk Munenori Kawasaki with the top of the Rays order due up but that's exactly what he did. With Mekly Cabrera down in the count 0-2 he took a Rodney fastball off the plate for ball one but home plate umpire Dale Scott called it strike three to end the ballgame (image from Brooksbaseball.net):
Despite making two errors the defense set the tone for the game. Kelly Johnson threw out Edwin Encarnacion at 2b in the first inning and Desmond Jennings tracked down a line drive off the bat of Adam Lind in the 2nd. Yunel Escobar made a diving stop in the 6th and made a strong throw to first to nail Adam Lind and diffuse another Jays rally but he saved his best for the 8th. The defensive gem of the game had to be his double play leap and throw by Yunel Escobar to end the Jays threat in the 8th.
The Rays and Blue Jays will complete their 3 game series tomorrow afternoon at 4:07. The Rays will send Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 5.82 ERA) up against Mark Buehrle (1-3, 6.33 ERA). After the game the Rays will return home for a well deserved off day before welcoming the New York Yankees to Tropicana Field for a weekend series.
Note: Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to 15 games with his 2nd inning double.