Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays defeat Astros 6-1

HOUSTON — Manager Joe Maddon felt his team was finally able to "exhale" after Wednesday's win, when they snapped a club-record scoreless streak.

Maddon has seen it before, where all it takes is one game and a team can flip "like a switch."

The Rays seemed to pick up where they left off Friday in a 6-1 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park, giving them their first winning streak — two — since May 24-25 and ending a 10-game road skid.

"By no means are we content with what's happened," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "But it's a good start. It's a streak."

They didn't need much offense thanks to a bounce-back start by Alex Cobb, who struck out a season-high 11 in 6⅓ innings. But Tampa Bay (26-42) racked up five extra-base hits, including a two-run double by Matt Joyce and a two-run triple by Ben Zobrist, who came a homer away from the cycle.

Even catcher Ryan Hanigan picked up two singles, snapping a streak of 28 hitless at-bats.

"This is more like we're supposed to play, like we can play," Maddon said.

Cobb seemingly corrected the mechanical flaw that has hurt him the past month since coming off the disabled list. He considered his last start against Seattle — in which he allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 4⅓ innings — a "nice slap in the face and a wakeup call to bear down even harder."

Boy, did he.

Other than giving up a solo homer to Jon Singleton in the fourth, Cobb cruised, taming an aggressive Astros lineup mostly with his changeup, including striking out prized prospect George Springer three times. It was the fifth double-digit strikeout game of his career, and he fell two strikeouts shy of his career high (May 10, 2013, against San Diego).

"You go borderline crazy after bad starts. You start running your mechanics through your mind thousands of times. It keeps you up at night sometimes," Cobb said. "It feels good to come out there and see your adjustments pay off."

Cobb got some help from his defense.

Centerfielder Desmond Jennings made a big catch in the seventh. With one on and no outs, Chris Carter ripped a fly ball to deep center. Jennings raced back to catch it on the hill before the wall. In most parks, that would have been a two-run homer. Instead, it was a 425-foot flyout.

"That's a great play right there," Maddon said. "Almost 99 percent of the other ballparks, that was probably out. That ball was crushed."

The Rays even caught a few breaks. To lead off the second, James Loney reached when shortstop Jonathan Villar dropped a routine popup in shallow left-center. Zobrist followed with a double, and he and Loney scored on Joyce's double.

After Zobrist lined a triple to right-center in the fifth, the Rays broke it open in the ninth off ex-Tampa Bay closer Kyle Farns­worth, loading the bases before Longoria's two-run single.

The bullpen finished it off with Brad Boxberger relieving Cobb in the seventh, Joel Peralta striking out the side in the eighth and Kirby Yates and Jake McGee closing it out in the ninth.

Said Cobb: "Things are starting to roll our way."

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