The Rays (32-29) continued their creep towards the top with their second straight win against the Los Angeles Angels (30-33). Alex Cobb (1-0) pitched exceptionally, twirling a fine 6 and 1/3 innings -- walking none and K'ing 3. The rookie certainly had a California-sized ob-stakle in his way, pairing off against Dan Haren (5-4), who allowed 3 runs in 7 innings of work. Tonight, the Rays became the 5th team to get more than 2 runs against Haren over his 13 starts in 2011. Tonight's victory was no small feet.
Johnny Damon started the game proper, hitting a lead-off triple and scoring four pitches later on a Ben Zobrist ground out. The Rays then loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning, only to have Dan Haren houdini his way out of it. B.J. Upton put the Rays up 2-0 with his 8th homer of the year in the 3rd. He is now on pace to hit ~20.5 homers this year. In the fourth, Damon slapped yet another extra-base hit, doubling on a ball straight-murdered towards center field, sending John Jaso across the plate.
Meanwhile, Alex Cobb's side of the game went so smoothly as to be almost boring -- until the 6th inning, when Howie Kendrick hit a ground rule double to right and Torii Hunter drove him home with a single. The Cobb-related thrills continued in the 7th, when Mark Trumbo led off with with a double to right-center, which slipped by B.J. Upton to allow Trumbo to trudge to third base.
After getting the shell of Vernon Wells to pop out, Cobb left in favor of J.P. Howell, who did his best J.P. Howell impersonation, making Maicer Izturis and Hank Conger look like beer-league softball players, sunburned and ready to go home and watch NASCAR. With two outs in the top of the eighth, Casey Kotchman spurred a hit-fest, skying a double to left and later scoring on a John Jaso single.
From there, the 1-2 combo of Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth collectively said, "2010 was not a fluke," slamming the door so hard Torii Hunter may have gotten a nosebleed.
Notes from the game:
- It is still early to matter too much, but: The Rays have clambered back to within 2.5 games of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The Yanks and Sox are beating each other up this week, so wins mean gaining ground on either or both of them. That would be nice.
- Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, and John Jaso had a great day today, going a combined 8 for 12 with a walk. Kotchman still seems to be suffering a little bit from the recent ankle injury, but he ran, hit, and fielded effectively tonight, which is a good sign. In fact he hit a foul homer off Haren at one point, albeit moments before he struck out.
- Kyle Farnsworth has walked only one batter all year long. It is just a shame the Rays could not find a proven closer like Rafael Soriano, Ryan Franklin, Matt Thornton, Joakim Soria, or Matt Capps (all relievers under-performing Farnstormer).
- Russ Canzler had a grand slam today, his 7th home run of the Triple-A season. Coming into action today (pre-salami, in other words), Canzler was sporting a .397 wOBA and playing some fine-to-acceptable defense at third base. Felipe Lopez better watch his back.