Rays Vs. Rangers: Three Big Homers Lead The Rays To Victory

Alex Cobb pitched well, but the Rays needed some late-game power to beat the Rangers.

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Longo, Joyce, Rodriguez Homer; Rays Beat The Rangers Late, 5-4

The Rays (29-25) won in thrilling fashion, beating the Texas Rangers (29-26) on a late Evan Longoria home run. Though the game started as a pitching duel between Alex Cobb (6.1 IP and 3 ER) and C.J. Wilson (6.2 and 3 ER, 10 Ks), each pitcher got tagged for late game runs, turning the game into a bullpen stop-the-bleeding fest.

With two outs in the 3rd inning, the Rangers got two base runners and Adrian Beltre returned a fastball up the middle, giving them an early 1-0 lead. Then in the bottom of the inning, Wilson gave up a no-doubt home run to Sean Rodriguez to tie the game 1-1.

The game remained tied until the top of the 7th, when an Ian Kinsler bloop hit scored Mike Napoli, who was aggressively running from second on the play. Cobb then walked the next runner and then left in favor of J.P. Howell, who struck out Josh Hamilton, but allowed an RBI-single to Michael Young.

The Rays again responded in the following half-inning as Matt Joyce crushed his 9th homer of the year with B.J. Upton on second, tying the game at 3-3. The lead did not last long as J.P. Howell put the first two runners on and a Joel Peralta wild pitch/passed ball (you, the viewer, decide) gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead.

When the game seemed all but lost, Johnny Damon blooped a single and then Longo hit his sky-scraping 4th home run of the season, giving the Rays the final 5-4 lead in the bottom of the 8th. Farnsworth then came in and taught the Rangers how to say save in Australian.

Notes from the game:

  • Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez are both vying for more playing time. For Joyce to earn everyday PAs, he needs to prove he can hit left-handed pitchers and he certainly did that tonight, homering off of a very tough lefty in C.J. Wilson. His home run had full-time starter written all over it.
  • Longoria's homer went out by like a foot, likely causing somewhere around 50 heart attacks in the great Tampa Bay area. Josh Hamilton looked ready to catch it at 3 for 4 separate moments. A little breeze in the wrong direction, and the Rays would be 28-25. #allpraisethedome
  • Fun fact: All three homers came with 2 outs and were the Rays only extra-base hits tonight.
  • With the Red Sox loss tonight, the Rays are now 1 game behind the Yankees, a half game behind the Sox, and 1.5 games ahead of the Blue Jays. Not that it really matters too much because it is very, very early.
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Rays Vs. Rangers: Pitch Tipping Problem Behind Him, Alex Cobb Slated To Start

After last night's game - a rather forgettable loss to the Rangers - the Rays called up top prospect Alex Cobb for today's start, demoting bullpen arm Brandon Gomes in the process. With Jeff Niemann injured and Wade Davis struggling, Cobb is just the player Rays fans want to see right now: he's young, has pitched wonderfully in Triple-A, and he's not named Andy Sonnanstine.

Cobb isn't a light-the-world-on-fire, oh-my-gosh-I-can't-wait prospect like Jeremy Hellickson was last season, as most scouts have been somewhat skeptical of his upside. He doesn't throw hard heat and he doesn't have any sexy curves or sliders; instead, he succeeds primarily with a dominant change-up and pinpoint control, a combination that's been quite successful for him throughout the minors. You'd be hard pressed to find a crack or weakness in his stats; he's succeeded at every level of the minors, striking out 9.5 batters per nine in both Double-A and Triple-A these last two years while walking around two per nine.

While the Rays' minor league system is loaded with pitching prospects with higher ceilings than Cobb (like Matt Moore, Alex Torres, and Chris Archer), Cobb has the advantage of being the most refined and major-league ready of the bunch. He's only 23-years-old, but he's already shown that he doesn't have much else to prove in the minors and considering the Rays have a plethora of other arms, they don't need to worry about his service time and can risk rushing him slightly. 

Cobb was called up for one game earlier this season, and he got hit around by the Angels in that start, lasting only four innings and allowing eight baserunners. His command was shaky, likely due to nerves, and he made the mistake of tipping his pitches by waggling his glove whenever he was going to throw a fastball. Maddon and Cobb both stated last night that the problem has been fixed and behind him, so the Rangers won't be able to rely on that to help them tonight.

Tonight's game is a 6:40 PM start. For more news and analysis on the Rays, follow SB Nation's blog DRaysBay.

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