The Tampa Bay Rays pitched their way to another must-win game on the road, beating the Cleveland Indians 4-0 on Wednesday in the American League (AL) wild-card playoff game.
Alex Cobb, who missed a chunk of the regular season after he was hit in the head by a line drive, quieted a thundering Cleveland crowd by keeping the Indians scoreless through seven innings on the mound.
Delmon Young homered in the third inning for the Rays, who were playing in their third city in the past four days. Tampa Bay advanced to face the AL East champion Boston Red Sox in the division series starting today.
Cobb’s comeback in August from his frightening injury helped stabilize the Rays, who have spent the past two weeks winning crucial games to make the Major League Baseball playoffs for the fourth time in six years.
Cobb suffered a concussion on June 15 when he was struck in the right ear by a ball hit by Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. On Tuesday, he recalled lying on his sofa and wondering if he would be able to help the Rays contend for a playoff spot.
He did not want a repeat of 2011, when he could not pitch in the playoffs after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his ribs.
However, not only did the 25-year-old Cobb go 5-1 after returning to the team, he finished 11-3 in 22 starts and manager Joe Maddon did not hesitate giving him the ball for the wild-card game.
“Can’t put into words the appreciation I have celebrating on this field,” Cobb said.
“I knew how close it was to not coming back. Sitting on the couch watching these games, I knew we had a good chance. We have a great team. I was going to do everything I could to get back and be a part of it,” he added.
The road-tested Rays have traveled 5,837km since leaving home on Monday last week. They won four of their past six games of the regular season on the road at New York and Toronto, then defeated the Texas Rangers in the wild-card tiebreaker game on the road on Monday.
Against the Indians, the Rays took a 3-0 lead in the fourth on Desmond Jennings’ two-run double.
Cobb was in trouble in the bottom of the inning as the Indians loaded the bases.
However, he got Asdrubal Cabrera to hit a grounder to first baseman Loney, who threw to second for a forced out, and shortstop Yunel Escobar fired to Cobb covering first for the double play.
The Indians threatened again in the fifth, putting two batters on with none out. Cobb struck out Michael Bourn, got Nick Swisher to ground to first and retired Jason Kipnis to keep it 3-0.
The Indians went from 94 losses a year ago to 92 wins under first-year manager Terry Francona and won their past 10 games to make the postseason for the first time since 2007.