For the second time in three nights, the Tampa Bay Rays survived elimination, this time defeating the Cleveland Indians with a 4-0 win of Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
One of the hottest pitchers in baseball down the stretch, Alex Cobb took the mound for the Rays. He wasn't razor sharp, getting knocked around for eight hits and one walk in 6.2 innings, but was effective when necessary and worked out of several jams.
The Tribe, fueled by Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall at the back of the lineup, put runners in scoring position with less than two outs on three separate occasions. But the home team wasted each opportunity, unable to come up with the clutch hits when needed most.
Cobb handed the game to Joel Peralta in a bit of a two-out jam but with a zero in the run column in the bottom of the seventh. And Peralta kept it that way, as Nick Swisher went down swinging for the final out of the inning.
MLB.com's Jordan Bastian summed up the historically inept night for the Indians offense:
The Rays bats took care of the rest.
After a slow start against flame-throwing rookie Danny Salazar—who hit 100 mph in the first and struck out three of his first four batters (retiring six straight to start the game)—Delmon Young finally connected in the top of the third inning.
And when you connect with a 98 mph fastball, this happens:
Young struggled to make much of an impact during the regular season between the Philadelphia Phillies and Rays, but this was just another playoff game for the new Mr. October, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
"The adrenaline was definitely going pretty fast there in the early going of the game," Cobb said, per Bill Chastain and MLB.com. "Once Delmon hit that home run, I had a little bit of a run to work with, I tried to fill up the strike zone.
"My stuff wasn't the best it's been, but I made my defense work, and they were awesome. Everybody in the infield contributed."
Salazar's second time through the lineup was far more bumpy, as he gave up back-to-back singles to James Loney and Evan Longoria in the fourth. Both scored on a two-out double from Desmond Jennings.
After walking Jose Molina to lead off the fifth, his night finished with an inefficient final line: 4.0-plus innings, four strikeouts, four hits, two walks, three earned runs.
The Indians threatened at times during the game, but Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into a bases-loaded double play to end the fourth inning and Nick Swisher struck out swinging in the seventh, stranding Gomes and Chisenhall on the bases.
Cleveland left nine runners on base (six in scoring position) for the game. They had two hits with RISP, but neither materialized in a run.
Peralta and Jake McGee pitched a no-nonsense 1.1 scoreless innings of relief and the Rays added another insurance run in top of the ninth after a few defensive mishaps from the Indians, setting up Fernando Rodney for a 1-2-3 inning to complete the impressive 4-0 shutout.
Alex Cobb, Rays: B+
Again, it wasn't the best performance of his career, but it was a winning one—and that's all that matters.
Cobb got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth inning with a double play, and he got out of a first-and-third, zero-out jam in the fifth inning with a strikeout and two groundouts. In a do-or-die game, not many pitchers would have kept their cool in back-to-back high-tension situations like that.
His off-speed stuff was especially effective, as he kept the Indians off-balance. That proved crucial in getting timely strikeouts (he finished with five) and ground balls.
Danny Salazar, Indians: C
The first time through the lineup, Salazar was terrific, striking out three and giving up just the one solo homer to Young.
But his blazing fastball lost its effectiveness the second time through, as he gave up three hits and two runs in the fourth inning and was subsequently pulled shortly thereafter.
It's worth mentioning here that the Indians bullpen (5.0 innings, seven strikeouts, four hits, zero walks, zero ER) was spectacular and did its part to keep the Tribe in the game.
Desmond Jennings, Rays: A-
It may have been Young's home run that put the Rays in front, but Jennings' clutch two-out, two-run double gave them some vital insurance. Who knows how the 25-year-old Cobb would have responded to all of Cleveland's scoring chances with merely a one-run lead?
Jennings also added a single in what was a gritty effort—he came in with a bad hamstring and was replaced by pinch-runner Sam Fuld in the seventh inning.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: D
Well, that couldn't have gone much worse.
With a runner on second and two outs in the second inning, Cabrera lined out to center field. Not the worst thing in the world.
With the bases loaded and just one out a couple innings later, he had a chance to redeem himself. But he grounded into a double play to end the rally and the Indians' best opportunity to get back into the game.
Desmond Jennings, clutch. Asdrubal Cabrera (and Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, who both also struggled with RISP), not clutch.
Well, the Indians go golfing or skiing or fishing or whatever they like to do in the offseason.
The Rays, on the other hand, now travel to Boston to begin a five-game series with the Red Sox. Game 1 of the ALDS is on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.
You can watch all postseason baseball live on TBS.com or your mobile device.
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