2013 ALDS: How Rays' Alex Cobb Can Shut Down the Red Sox

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2013 ALDS: How Rays' Alex Cobb Can Shut Down the Red Sox
USA TODAY Sports
Down 0-2 in the series, the Tampa Bay Rays will count on Alex Cobb to keep them in the postseason.

The Tampa Bay Rays are hoping to get all they can out of starting pitcher Alex Cobb if they hope to stay alive versus the Boston Red Sox in the 2013 American League Division Series.

Staying alive will be no easy task as both teams face off in Game 3 on October 7.

Up to this point, Tampa Bay has been completely outclassed by Boston in almost every facet.  The Red Sox have pitched better, have gotten more out of their bullpen, played better defense and have dominated at the plate.

It is safe to surmise that the Rays have their backs up against the wall as they trail in the best-of-five series two games to none.

Whatever hopes Tampa Bay has reside on the shoulders of its 26-year-old right-hander as he faces off against what has seemed to be an unstoppable Red Sox offense.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Cobb has pitched well down the stretch into the postseason.

Cobb, who went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA over the course of the season, has pitched well as of late.  In his last five regular-season starts, Cobb won three and struck out 35 batters while holding opposing offenses to a .226 batting average.

Against Cleveland during the American League Wild Card Game, Cobb pitched just as well, allowing zero runs during 6.2 innings pitched. 

Down the stretch, Cobb and the Rays were vying for a postseason berth.  Against the Indians, they wanted to move on.  Against Boston, they hope to simply stay alive.

So what exactly does Cobb have going for him when he takes on the Red Sox?

For starters, October 7 marks Cobb's birthday. It also marks fellow teammate Evan Longoria's birthday as well.  That alone could provide some motivation for Cobb and his teammates. 

Cobb was also born in Boston.  Pitching against the Red Sox in the postseason should also give him a boost.

At home in Tropicana Field, Cobb owns a 2.81 ERA in 2013 compared to a road ERA of 2.70.  There really is not much of a difference there although the playoff atmosphere could provide him ample support.

The biggest concern of all is how he faces up against the Red Sox lineup.  As a team, Boston is hitting .270 against him and Cobb's 2013 ERA versus the Red Sox is 5.16 in four games.  Those numbers do not bode well if Tampa Bay is hoping to continue the series.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Boston's Shane Victorino has the best numbers against Cobb totaling four hits in 11 at-bats.

As pointed out by Tim Britton of The Providence Journal, Boston has their way of getting to Cobb and his variety of pitches.  He writes:

Cobb’s first inning against the Red Sox on June 10 stands out as the worst of the right-hander’s season.  The first eight Boston batters reached, and six runs had come home before he even recorded an out.  How did the Red Sox do it?  Mainly, by attacking Cobb’s secondary pitches early in the count.

Cobb and the Rays should expect Boston to use this same formula again in Game 3.

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Which player will emerge in the playoffs?  Will Cobb emulate his June 10 performance against Boston and struggle?  Or will he look more like the pitcher that was so dominant down the stretch?

At this point, it is anyone's guess.  Yet the Rays are confident in Cobb's abilities.  He is getting the nod in his second elimination game of the postseason.  Cobb's first chance went well.

Tampa Bay hopes his second will be just as good.  After all, their playoff hopes depend on it.

 

 

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.

 

 

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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