ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon calls it a mortal sin to waste good pitching — which the Rays continue to do to RHP Alex Cobb.
Cobb had another strong outing Wednesday, allowing only one (unearned) run, but the lack of offense stuck him with his fifth loss.
"Not just good," Maddon said of Cobb's performance. "He was really, really good."
Especially considering how Cobb felt about his fastball early.
"I was throwing some fastballs that just weren't going where I was planning on them going …" said Cobb, who walked four and struck out six. "I had to get kind of creative."
He listened to C Ryan Hanigan and relied more on his changeup and curveball. The tactic helped him allow only four hits across seven innings. Wednesday marked the fourth game this season in which Cobb didn't allow an earned run, and it built on his 11-strikeout performance against Houston in his last start.
The game also continued the trend of Cobb receiving little help from his offense. The Rays have given him 11 runs of support in his nine starts. His season average of 1.82 runs of support per nine innings would be the lowest in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify. It's also less than half of the support former Rays starter James Shields received from 2011-12.
"It feels like a pitching duel every time you go out there," Cobb said.
CRUZ GOES DEEP: Down 2-and-1 in the count to Nelson Cruz, RHP Kirby Yates tried to regain control with a fastball over the plate.
Cruz made him pay for it, blasting a solo home run in the eighth — the first Yates has allowed in his brief time in the majors.
"Bad spot to throw the ball to that kind of hitter," Yates said.
The shot was the third one off the C-ring catwalk at Tropicana Field this year and the second in as many days.
INJURY UPDATE: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) might need another rehab start before returning to the Rays.
Although his fastball is up to 92 mph, he has struggled in three rehab starts. In eight innings, he has given up 20 hits and 11 runs (eight earned) while walking three. Hellickson said his curveball and fastball command have both been fine, but his changeup has been shaky and his fastball hasn't had much life.
"I shouldn't be giving up what I gave up," Hellickson said. "At the same time, I came out of all three of them fine and feeling good. That's really all that matters to me right now."
OF Brandon Guyer (thumb) had a stellar rehab start for Triple-A Durham: 4-for-4 with two triples and an RBI. Maddon said Guyer could return soon.
MINOR MATTERS: INF Taylor Motter was named the Star of Stars at the Double-A Southern League's All-Star Game on Tuesday, going 3-for-3 with a home run. He's batting .319 this season for Montgomery.
MISCELLANY: Maddon plans to have more fundamental work before the Rays' games tonight and Friday, including pitcher fielding practice and more hitting. … INF Sean Rodriguez, RHP Jake Odorizzi and DH Jerry Sands are scheduled to attend the fifth annual Lunch with the Rays fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, at 11 a.m. Friday at the Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center (4951 78th Ave.).
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MBakerTBTimes.