ST. PETERSBURG — Alex Cobb delivered a great start and Alex Colome provided a dramatic finish Saturday as the Rays squeaked out a 1-0 win over the Red Sox.
Cobb worked 72/3 innings in one of his best outings of the season, allowing just two hits. Then Colome finished, recording the final four outs for his 24th save, though not without some now seemingly requisite drama.
After getting the first out of the ninth, Colome, who has been struggling, walked Xander Bogaerts and gave up a double to Mitch Moreland. He came back to strike out Hanley Ramirez and, after intentionally walking Andrew Benintendi to load the bases, he got Chris Young to pop out to short.
The win improved the Rays to 46-43 and pulled them within 4½ games of the American League East-leading Red Sox heading into Sunday's final game before the All-Star break.
Cobb said on Friday he was sick of hearing people laud him for "grinding" his way through starts without his best stuff, that he wanted to "have some nice comfortable one-two-three innings and turn that into a quality outing."
He certainly accomplished that Saturday, before a Game of Thrones Day crowd of 23,419 at Tropicana Field — four of them to be exact on his way to a high-quality outing, allowing just two singles and a walk.
Cobb also pitched in with an impressive defensive play, a behind-his-back grab of Bogaerts' bouncer for the first out of the seventh.
But shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria put on the real defensive show, with a pair of dazzling plays. He leaped to snare Ramirez's liner in the second then dived to get a glove on Sandy Leon's laser in the fifth, scrambled to his feet and fired a throw to first.
The Rays got on the board in the second with Steven Souza Jr. singling, going to second on Brad Miller's single and third on Hechavarria's fielder's choice (that was originally called a double play then reversed on replay) and scoring on a sac fly by Jesus Sucre.
The Rays had chances to add on.
Three times, they stranded a runner at third base:
In the first, as Mallex Smith singled and moved up on two groundouts but was stranded when Logan Morrison struck out.
In the fifth, as Evan Longoria doubled with two outs and took third uncontested but Morrison struck out again, slamming his bat in frustration.
And in the seventh, as Smith tripled with two outs but All-Star Corey Dickerson grounded out, continuing an extended skid that is now at 3-for-31.
Plus in that second, they had the bases loaded with one out and got just the one run.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.