Saturday, June 14, 2014
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Cobb, Rays end 10-game road skid

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[June 14, 2014]  HOUSTON -- Rays right-hander Alex Cobb has been here before, riding a wave of dominance like he showed against the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Cobb struck out a season-high 11 batters and limited the Astros to three hits while pitching into the seventh inning of the Rays' 6-1 victory at Minute Maid Park.

Cobb (2-4) allowed just five baserunners before departing with one out in the seventh. The Astros (31-38) managed two baserunners in the second and fourth inning, but Cobb remained in complete control, deftly using a splendid changeup to steady his inconsistent fastball command.

"He's got possibly one of the best, top three changeups in the American League, maybe in baseball," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "When Cobber's right, he's one of the best pitchers in the game. ... I'll put him up against anybody.

"When the fastball, curveball and changeup are working, he is as good as it gets. He's one of the best-kept secrets nationally. This guy is all of that. That ERA is going to keep coming down. Strikeouts are going to stay up there and the win total is going to flip-flop."

The Rays (26-42) snapped a 10-game road losing skid behind Cobb and an offense that is seeking to build momentum after coming alive against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

Astros right-hander Collin McHugh (4-4) took the brunt of the onslaught, with the Rays adding two insurance runs against right-hander Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth.

Cobb combined with right-handed relievers Brad Boxberger and Joel Peralta for 16 strikeouts, the highest total against the Astros this season.

"This baseball season is way too long to think you're not going to run into nights like this," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "The best thing you can do is put it behind you and move on to the next day and tip your cap to the guy who threw one great game tonight. And show up tomorrow ready to play."

Having allowed 16 earned runs over his last three starts and 15 1/3 innings, Cobb rediscovered the form that carried him through three consecutive scoreless outings bridging April and May and a stint on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.

Cobb struck out the side in the first inning and worked around a pair of two-out baserunners in the second.

He retired the side in order in the third and fifth innings and negotiated a difficult fourth inning that began when Astros first baseman Jon Singleton cranked his fourth home run of the season, an opposite-field shot to left that cut the Rays' lead to 2-1. Otherwise, Cobb was stellar in taking another step in his fifth start since his return from the DL.

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"You go borderline crazy after bad starts," Cobb said. "You start running your mechanics through your mind thousands of times and it keeps you up at night sometimes. It feels good to come out and see that your adjustments paid off. It's to the point right now where I'm thinking about doing it, and I need to get to the point where it's just a natural habit."

The Rays relied on extra-base pop to chase McHugh after five innings. McHugh surrendered five hits, all for extra bases -- including two doubles in the second inning and a two-run triple to Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist in the fifth.

Rays left fielder Matt Joyce drove in two runs with his one-out double in the second for a 2-0 advantage.

"Not very good," McHugh said of his command. "I think anyone watching the game could see that. My fastball wasn't very good, so I had to throw a lot more breaking balls and changeups. That's not me as a pitcher. It's not what I do best. I was not happy with my fastball command tonight."

NOTES: Astros 2B Jose Altuve was not in the lineup and missed his second game this week (and second of the season) after being hit by a pitch on the right hand Thursday night. Subsequent X-rays were negative and Altuve is considered day to day with lingering soreness. ... The Astros recalled RHP Josh Zeid from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned LHP Rudy Owens to the RedHawks. Owens did not make an appearance with the Astros after his recall from Oklahoma City on June 8. ... Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson allowed four runs, six hits and one walk with two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings of a rehab start for Triple-A Durham on Thursday night. Hellickson was placed on the 15-day disabled list March 30 after offseason elbow surgery.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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